With Oriana Fallaci's demise at 77 from a host of cancers, in September, in her beloved Florence, there also died something of the art of the interview. C Hitchens, Vanity Fair
Christopher Hitchens dismisses out of hand the powder puff powerpussies of the lamestream media while eulogizing and paying tribute (not enough, I'm afraid) to the finest, toughest, smartest, bravest journalist of my time -- Oriana Fallaci, an original thinker.
Oriana Fallaci and the Art of the Interview
Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair
Photo: Oriana Fallaci interrogates Ayatollah Khomeini for The New York Times Magazine at his home in Qom, Iran, October 1979. Photograph © Archivio Rizzoli.
Oriana Fallaci's interrogations of leaders such as Kissinger and Qaddafi make today's big-name interviewers look like powder puffs. Wondering when the questions got so soft, the author recounts his last visit with the tempestuous Italian journalist, who died in September, and her last—never published—scoop, a sit-down with the Pope.
Here is an excerpt from an interview with what our media culture calls a "world leader":
Dan Rather: Mr. President, I hope you will take this question in the spirit in which it's asked. First of all, I regret that I do not speak Arabic. Do you speak any … any English at all?
Saddam Hussein (through translator): Have some coffee.
Rather: I have coffee.
Hussein (through translator): Americans like coffee.
Rather: That's true. And this American likes coffee.
And here is another interview with another "world leader":
Oriana Fallaci: When I try to talk about you, here in Tehran, people lock themselves in a fearful silence. They don't even dare pronounce your name, Majesty. Why is that?
The Shah: Out of an excess of respect, I suppose.
Fallaci: I'd like to ask you: if I were an Iranian instead of an Italian, and lived here and thought as I do and wrote as I do, I mean if I were to criticize you, would you throw me in jail?
The Shah: Probably.
It's a great read in, of all places, Vanity Fair - here. Fallaci is a hero of mine and I was fortunate to see her in one of her last appearances here. And while Hitchens doesn't agree with her rage against Islamism, I do.