~~Edward Said died 10 years ago today, on September 25. On that day, when the news of his death reached us, a colleague not given to excess said, “He changed our world.” Prolific author, founder of the field of cultural studies, riveting lecturer, music writer, activist and merciless critic of the “peace process” and the media, and (as his students attest) extraordinary teacher, Said was all these. But he was more, and the cluster of these designations expresses only partly his influence, and his enduring presence and relevance to our world today, East and West.These works did change our world, changed the way we looked at the relationships between the powerful and the powerless, between East and West, between reader and text.
There are, to be sure, the standard Said tomes–the foundational works that we know and in which the fields of cultural studies and post-colonial studies are rooted, their ground- breaking radicalism, most of all. These works are classics. Then, there are the lesser known, lesser discussed (relatively, of course) of Said’s works, to which I’d like to pay tribute today: the extended conversation of Parallels and Paradoxes (with Daniel Barenboim), the memoir Out of Place, the lectures-turned-into-a-slim-book Freud and the Non-European, the music reviews of The Nation, the film The Last Interview (with Charles Glass), and the Le Monde Diplomatique essay “Eloquent, elegant Arabic.” The variety of the genres in which Said, an academic, practiced is staggering, and these less known essays show us another Said, less tense, more felicitous, even personal but unwavering. From time to time, I return to these less known works of Said, with a host of questions, concerns, troubles even. Here, Said’s voice is sometimes tender, often ironic, always laser sharp. And when the world is on fire it seems, and the Middle East, our Middle East, is reeling, I ask, What would Said have to say?~~
Mahmoud Darwish’s “Counterpoint for Edward Said” is one of the most beautiful poems ever written about friendship. I wanted to include an excerpt from it for this post but I simply could not choose, so great is this poem! Find it, read it– even in translation it holds up. Darwish also wrote a prose farewell for Said which was published in English translation in Le Monde Diplomatique–also very good. Find it.