I’ve just learned of the passing of Edward Said, the famed Palestinian-American intellectual, literary crictic, and pianist. He had suffered from leukemia for a few years now, but the news still came as a shock to his readers worldwide. Here’s his faculty profile at Columbia. Said is best known for Orientalism and The Question of Palestine. I would also recommend his memoir, Out of Place. In 1999, Said partnered with Argentine-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim to create the West Eastern Divan, an orchestra of Arab and Israeli youths. The orchestra has performed in Europe and, recently, in Morocco (its first performance in an Arab country.) Over the last few years, Edward Said has been the subject of venomous attacks questioning his right to call himself Palestinian, among other things. This Slate article recaps it all (and there’s also this Salon article by Christopher Hitchens in defense of the Palestinian appellation.)
I still remember the first time I read Edward Said and how happily surprised I was that an Arab point of view was rendered with such sharp wit and academic erudition. With his passing, Arab Americans have lost a great advocate, friend, and man.
Update: The obit in the NY Times. The Guardian’s obit.
Update 2: A reaction from the UN Secretary. And Alexander Cockburn talks about the more personal Said, the man who “never lost the capacity to be wounded by the treachery and opportunism of supposed friends. (..) His skin was so, so thin, I think because he knew that as long as he lived, as long as he marched onward as a proud, unapologetic and vociferous Palestinian, there would be some enemy on the next housetop down the street eager to pour sewage on his head.”
Update 3: The Edward Said archive is also available, though it seems to be getting pounded.
Update 4: Anglo-Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif writes about Said.
Update 5: Needless to say, the death of Said has been quite a blow to me. Even now as I sit in a coffee house, I feel like touching the arm of the stranger next to me and say, “Have you heard?” I had been waiting to see something from Hitchens ever since I heard the terrible news yesterday morning. Hitchens, you’ll recall, had only weeks ago written a scathing review of his longtime friend’s book, Orientalism, for the Atlantic. Well, here is Hitchens’ obit in Slate.
Update 6: Edward Said: The Traveller and the Exile.