January 26, 2003

The Opposite of Objective: Oriana

Oriana Fallaci inspired a generation of journalists with her 1977 book, "Interview with History," a rich collection of provocative conversations with the global political figures of the time. It was ironic, then, that a woman notorious for her flamboyant style of interviewing should have sequestered herself in such Garboesque silence in recent years.

Fallaci raised her voice again, though, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with a rambling essay on the dangers of Islam, Italy and intellectualism. The work was published later that year as a slim book, "The Rage and the Pride," which became a bestseller in Europe but hardly caused a ripple in the United States.

Perhaps to help the book's sales, perhaps because she is still too vigorous at 72 to keep quiet any longer, Fallaci is granting interviews again.

George Gurley of the New York Observer has written an entertaining, and enlightening, account of an afternoon he spent with Fallaci in Manhattan. Among the many quotable sections are Fallaci's thoughts about journalism:

"I asked about the secret of her huge success as a journalist. She said it had to do with the fact that she never tried to be objective. Objectivity, she said, was 'a hypocrisy which has been invented in the West which means nothing. We must take positions. Our weakness in the West is born of the fact of so-called "objectivity." Objectivity does not exist-it cannot exist! The word is a hypocrisy which is sustained by the lie that the truth stays in the middle. No, sir: Sometimes truth stays on one side only.' "

Whether or not you agree with Fallaci's views of objectivity, you must respect the passion she brings to her profession. Go read the rest.

Here is a sample of Fallaci's own reporting style, taken from "Interview with History" and its 1974 profile of Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios III:

"At a certain point I said to Makarios, 'You remind me of Jane Austin's advice.' Makarios smiled. 'What advice of Jane Austen's?' 'An intelligent woman should never let others know how intelligent she is.' Makarios smiled again. 'But I'm not a woman.' 'No, but you're intelligent, so intelligent that you're doing all you can to keep me from realizing it,' I said. And then his gaze hardened, something in him arched, like the back of a cat preparing itself for combat. I too arched myself, waiting for the blow of his claws, and ready to give it back. The blow didn't come. With the same rapidity with which he had flared up, he regained his composure and went on with his story."

 New York Observer The Rage of Oriana Fallaci
 The Rage and the Pride Amazon

Posted by Tim Porter at January 26, 2003 08:26 AM

Tim...In the early 70's I read Fallaci's "Nothing And So Be It" about Vietnam. I had read a review (I was trying to "improve" my mind) and immediately went out and bought the book. I have never forgotten the impact that book had on me. It was the most important indictment of the Vietnam war that I had taken in. I have that book and consider it a treasure for a number of reasons. First that a woman could talk and write that way and BE strong and seemingly fearless. I love her style of writing, etc. I have "Inshallah" as well and I saw several stories regarding her "tirade" after 9/11 and the first press story just completely broke me up. Just out there in their faces saying what the hell are you saying????? I do think she's quite amazing

Posted by: deborah rabin on January 26, 2003 07:50 PM
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