Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Provocation Of Oriana

Oriana Fallaci died a few days ago at the age of 77.
Perhaps the best way to describe one of modern day journalism’s most incandescent figures is the title that Adam Bernstein gave her in his obituary in the Washington Post. “Reporter-Provocateur”. If at all it is possible to say it all about Oriana in 2 words, these two do a very adequate job.
Famous for her ascerbic, provocative interviews with almost every world famous personality - from Henry Kissinger to Sean Connery and even Indira Gandhi – perhaps her most famous (or then infamous depending on how you look at it) was the one with Ayotallah Khomeni, where she asked him, "How do you swim in a chador?"
"Our customs are none of your business," Khomeini said. "If you do not like Islamic dress, you are not obliged to wear it. Because Islamic dress is for good and proper young women."
"That's very kind of you, Imam," she said. "And since you said so, I'm going to take off this stupid medieval rag right now."
You’d think that was the end of her interview but……
When the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera published an interview with herself in the newspaper Corriere Della Sera, it sold out of its first run of 500,000 copies within four hours.

But I write about her because I remember another Oriana – writer of the most compelling books, the last of which published in 2004 - “The Force of Reason”. A criticism of Islam, it became a bestseller in Europe and landed her, now grievously sick with cancer, with the prospect of two years imprisonment. The preliminary trial began on 12 June in Bergamo and on 25 June, the judge posponed the trial to begin on 18 December.
Fallaci died on September 14th.
About 15 years ago, I read another book by Fallaci – Letter to a Child Never Born. A raw, intense book. When it was published, a Milan daily review began, "Ugly, ugly, ugly. Uglier than this is not possible. It will last only for a summer." The book finally sold over a million and half copies in Italy alone. It has been translated into twenty-one languages. I read the English version and I never forgot it or its author.
And though I can’t the exact words, it went something like this

Pain is the salt of life. Without it, life is tasteless….

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