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Oriana Fallaci

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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. Her absolutely heroic period was that of the 1970s, probably the last chance we had of staving off the complete triumph of celebrity culture.
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Christopher Hitchens "Oriana Fallaci and the Art of the Interview", Vanity Fair (December 2006)

 
Oriana Fallaci

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Ever since the secret trip to China, my own relationship with Nixon had grown complicated. Until then I had been an essentially anonymous White House assistant. But now his associates were unhappy, and not without reason, that some journalists were giving me perhaps excessive credit for the more appealing aspects of our foreign policy while blaming Nixon for the unpopular moves.
These tendencies were given impetus by an interview I granted to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, without doubt the single most disastrous conversation I ever had with any member of the press. I saw her briefly on Nov. 2 and 4, 1972, in my office. I did so largely out of vanity. She had interviewed leading personalities all over the world. Fame was sufficiently novel for me to be flattered by the company I would be keeping. I had not bothered to read her writings; her evisceration of other victims was thus unknown to me.

 
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Ever since the secret trip to China, my own relationship with Nixon had grown complicated. Until then I had been an essentially anonymous White House assistant. But now his associates were unhappy, and not without reason, that some journalists were giving me perhaps excessive credit for the more appealing aspects of our foreign policy while blaming Nixon for the unpopular moves. .
These tendencies were given impetus by an interview I granted to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, without doubt the single most disastrous conversation I ever had with any member of the press. I saw her briefly on Nov. 2 and 4, 1972, in my office. I did so largely out of vanity. She had interviewed leading personalities all over the world. Fame was sufficiently novel for me to be flattered by the company I would be keeping. I had not bothered to read her writings; her evisceration of other victims was thus unknown to me.
I paid the price for my naiveté. The quotes ascribed to me, statements of marginal taste gathered together in what she presented as a conversation, were the most self-serving utterances of my entire public career.

 
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I asked this heroic pet lover how it felt to have died for a schnauzer named Teddy. Salvador Biagiani was philosophical. He said it sure beat dying for absolutely nothing in the Viet Nam War.

 
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May not we then confidently pronounce that man happy who realizes complete goodness in action, and is adequately furnished with external goods? Or should we add, that he must also be destined to go on living not for any casual period but throughout a complete lifetime in the same manner, and to die accordingly, because the future is hidden from us, and we conceive happiness as an end, something utterly and absolutely final and complete? If this is so, we shall pronounce those of the living who possess and are destined to go on possessing the good things we have specified to be supremely blessed, though on the human scale of bliss.

 
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