Monday, May 29, 2006

Fallaci, freedom fighter, war correspondent, speaks out

Seems like quite a remarkable woman. She really does speak her mind in an articulate, sensible manner. Read it here: New Yorker

Here's an excerpt:

Fallaci’s New York residence is a handsome nineteenth-century brownstone, painted white, with a walled garden in the back. She had longed for such a house since childhood; as a young girl in Italy during the Second World War, she’d found a Collier’s magazine in a care package dropped by U.S. military pilots, and fallen in love with a photo essay about American houses. “It’s funny to say that, with the marvellous architecture we have in Italy, I desired a house like this,” she said. “I grew up with this obsession of a white house with a black door.” Inside, the second-floor rooms, where we talked, had a scholarly, slightly worn elegance. The bookshelves held translations of Fallaci’s books and leather-bound early editions of Dickens, Voltaire, and Shakespeare. There were eighteenth- and nineteenth-century oil paintings on the walls; an old-fashioned cream-colored dial phone sat on a small table with a stained-glass lamp. It was the sort of setting where you could imagine retired professors sipping port and sparring genially over Greek participles. It was not the sort of setting where you expected to find a woman of Fallaci’s age yelling “Mamma mia! ” and threatening to break various people’s heads and blow things up.

I’d always thought of Fallaci as an icon of the nineteen-sixties—one of those women who had lived an emancipated life without ever calling herself a feminist. She denigrated marriage, got thrown out of nice restaurants for wearing slacks, and hung out with Anna Magnani and Ingrid Bergman. Her great love, the Greek resistance fighter Alexandros Panagoulis, died in a suspicious automobile accident in Athens three years after they met. Panagoulis had been imprisoned, and endured torture, for his failed attempt on the life of the Greek junta leader George Papadopoulos, in 1968. “I didn’t want to kill a man,” he told Fallaci. “I’m not capable of killing a man. I wanted to kill a tyrant.”

She proudly told a story about her mother, “When my father was arrested, we didn’t know where they had him, so she went everywhere for two days and finally she found him, at the house of torture. It was called Villa Triste. They killed people there. And the Fascist major was named Mario Carità—Major Charity. Mother—I don’t know how she did it—she went to the office of Major Charity, passing a room that was full of blood on the floor, the blood of three men who had been arrested and tied together, and one of them was my father. Carità says, ‘Madam. I have no time to lose. Your husband will be executed tomorrow morning at six. You can dress in black.’ My mother got up, as if she were the Statue of Liberty—and my mother said, ‘Mario Carità, tomorrow morning I shall dress in black, like you said. But if you are born from the womb of a woman, ask your mother to do the same, because your day will come very soon.’ You could think for a year before you came up with something like that—to her, it came.”

Her mother was pregnant at the time, Fallaci went on. “She mounted on her bicycle, and all at once she had pains so terrible. She entered into a beautiful building and, in the atrium, she lost the child. She put it in, I don’t know, a handkerchief or something. She mounted the bicycle again. She rode home. I opened the door, and there was mother, as pale as snow. And before she entered she said, ‘Father will be executed tomorrow morning at six, and Elena’—that was the name she had given the baby—‘is dead.’ No tears.”

Quite a story. So read it here: New Yorker magazine.

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