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Amazingly, in a vindication of Fallaci’s allure as well as her persistence, the interview picked up again later. People wanted to speak to her, though the urge would generally have proved wiser to resist. Henry Kissinger temporarily ruptured his relations with President Nixon in 1972 after revealing too much in an interview with Fallaci. He would describe the encounter in his own memoirs as “the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press”. But like many others — Yasser Arafat, Indira Gandhi, Deng Xiaoping, Robert Kennedy, Ariel Sharon — he wanted to join the pantheon of the people eventually collected as Interview with History. Yet eventually enough careers had been damaged or destroyed by encounters with Fallaci that she put herself out of a job.

From the end of the 1970s she turned to fiction, writing a long, unrelenting but extraordinary book about one of the few people whom she had loved. A Man is a barely disguised account of the life of Alexandros Panagoulis, the Greek partisan who was assassinated in 1976 and who had a tempestuous relationship (what other type could there have been?) with Fallaci. It is filled with that unmistakable mixture of rage, passion and contempt which — along with coffee and cigarettes — seemed to fuel her. At one point the author is told that “a thousand people” are ready to come forward to help the partisan cause. “Who were those people?” she asks. “The ones who always come forward when the risk is past, when freedom has been regained, the big talkers, the cowards who as soon as they are put to the test melt like candles in a fire?” A now uncomfortably prescient novel on the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut (Inshallah) followed. And then silence. Cancer had begun to attack her body, but in her garret in New York one great final novel was in progress — a novel about her family and Florence. Notoriety still hung around her, now with the added allure gained by some recluses. But after Fallaci withdrew from the world her carefully created reputation inevitably began to wane too.

Then the dormant volcano exploded. After 9/11, when the dust of human remains and rubble was still hanging over New York, Fallaci broke her self-enforced silence. The Rage and the Pride was a defence of the free world, and a savage — at times wild — attack on the Islamic world. She had first encountered Islam in Pakistan as a reporter in the winter of 1960. The fury which had burned since then now poured out in this burning, toxic lava. In Italy the newspaper which carried the first version of the essay sold out, while the book version sold by the hundreds of thousands. A follow-up (The Force of Reason, 2004) was followed by a third post-9/11 book, Oriana Fallaci interviews Oriana Fallaci (L’Apocalisse). Across Europe various Islamic organisations tried to take her to court and hounded her in her last years.

The new Pope — Benedict XVI — invited her to his summer palace at Castel Gandolfo, but the meeting was conducted on the agreement that Fallaci never wrote about it. She took the contents of her last great interview to her grave. In September 2006, so ill that no commercial airliner would take her, she flew back by private plane to the city of her birth. “I want to die in Florence,” she explained to a friend. “And now the time has come. But I’ll die standing on both my feet, like Emily Brontë.”

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genni pavone
November 14th, 2017
7:11 AM
Oriana Fallaci is an Italian hero, one of those that make me proud to be Italian. I'm sure that when corruption and mafia will be things of the past and an honest genuine Government will rule in Italy, Oriana Fallaci will be greatly honoured as she surely deserve!

Perla
October 25th, 2017
5:10 PM
Thanks for an interesting piece and, as always,in your great style of writing

aavid
October 25th, 2017
8:10 AM
after reading your excellent book, it is a coincidence that my first thought was what a shame that it was devoid of the passion that ORIANA burned into her texts. no doubt you would have been hung out to dry if it had- so you are excused! never forget this wonderful lady!

Verity True
October 24th, 2017
7:10 PM
A brave and wise writer salutes a brave and wise writer!

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