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.


9 Responses to “farewell”

  1. idols of the marketplace Says:

    Edward Said 1935-2003

    Just Learned through Moorish Girl that Edward Said died this morning. A great mind and a great loss. More here. Sadly, I am sure we’ll be plenty of attacks on his memory by the lunatic right. Akila al-Hashemi, the Iraqi…

  2. language hat Says:

    Wow. I hadn’t heard about this. He’ll be missed.

  3. Aaron Says:

    Do you think his death will create a leadership vacuum in the U.S. amongst credible advocates for an independent Palestinian state?

  4. Joseph Says:

    Actually, Aaron, Said advocated a single-state solution governed by Palestinians and Israelis.

  5. Joseph Says:

    But I think earlier in his career he advocated a two-state solution. Certainly I can’t think of any other American who could speak with such integrity and compassion on the issue of Palestine.

  6. Alex Phallus Says:

    Was he the man who said he hoped America suffered “a hundred Mogidishu’s”? during the then upcoming war with Iraq? Cause that’s not very nice at all.

  7. manchegoboy Says:

    He was a frequent visitor to Spain, a place he Knew very well( he adored bullfighting ). We will miss him.

  8. Jonathan Edelstein Says:

    The professor who made the “million Mogadishus” remark was Nicholas DeGenova.

  9. Leila Abu-Saba Says:

    Thanks for your links to other obits. I really appreciated Adhaf Soueif’s words. Somebody else linked to Alex Cockburn’s and that’s a good mirror of the Hitchens obit.

    I had the good fortune to see Said speak in Berkeley a few years ago, got to say hello to him in the impossibly crowded book signing line. I had no idea he was personally so beloved by his friends. Certainly the crowd in Berkeley received him like a cross between a pop star and a savior. He looked bewildered at the applause. People were just beside themselves. Arabs were not in the majority in this audience, either. (Heck, when I was coming up in the 80s, the Arabs I know thought he was a sellout to the West…). It seems from the obits that he has been getting this response in the last few years. Good.

    I hope that his grief over the fate of Palestine didn’t hasten his death.

    May his children live to see peace in the Middle East…

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