During the last months I was often reminded of one of the icons of my youth: Oriana Fallaci. The first of her books I read was the bestselling “Lettera a un bambino mai nato”, an emotional and intimate conversation of a woman with her unborn child, facing a pregnancy she hasn’t sought.
After that, “Interview with history” shed a revealing, at times quite unflattering light on some of the world’s most famous and/or controversial political figures. One that stuck was her legendary encounter with Ayatollah Khomeini after the triumph of the islamic revolution in 1979. When I saw the picture of Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Ray wearing a white chador at a recent meeting with M. Ahmedinejad I recalled Oriana’s “blasphemous” gesture 30 years earlier, when she tore off what she called a “medieval rag”, challenging the spiritual ruler of Teheran with her passion and unyielding honesty. The Imam furiously interrupted the interview, only to resume it 1,2 days later. These two images highlight the difference in stance which has occurred over the last decades towards the arrogance of theocratic power.
The interview is particularly interesting these days, with the Iranian people struggling once again for democracy and freedom, and it has lost none of its candid boldness:
The overtly anti-islamic pamphlets the famed journalist published after 9/11 were harshly criticized in her native Italy and she even faced legal actions by muslim representatives. She refused to appear in Court not because she was afraid of being convicted of defamation but because she knew her temper would make her say things that would most certainly send her to jail for years, as she put it.
Here’s a long portrait by M. Talbot that appeared in “The New Yorker” in 2006:
And finally a eulogy by Ch. Hitchens after her death from cancer later that year: