September 25, 2003

Edward Said RIP

story.said.ap.jpgOne of the most erudite and important voices in contemporary intellectual discourse died today. He had been demonised by many on the hawkish side of the post-9/11 debate, but there's no doubt that his achievements up until that date earned him a permanent place in the history of ideas. Orientalism alone, his great book about how the West sees the East, was responsible for creating a whole new way of looking at literature. Still, it was his politics which were at the forefront of his public persona: the Washington Post obituary is headlined "Palestinian Spokesman Edward Said Dies", which makes him sound like Ari Fleischer's Middle Eastern opposite number. He will be sorely missed, even – perhaps especially – by his old friend and new enemy Christopher Hitchens. I can't wait to read the Hitch's piece on him.

UPDATE: The New York Times weighs in with a 2,500-word obituary of astonishing snippiness. Here's a typical paragraph from the opening section:

From 1977 to 1991, he was as an unaffiliated member of the Palestine National Conference, a parliament-in-exile. Most of the conference's members belong to one or another of the main Palestinian organizations, most importantly the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasir Arafat, but some were members of smaller organizations believed responsible for terrorist operations against Israelis and Americans, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
And here's how the obituary ends:
Reviewing that book in The New York Times, David Shipler wrote: "Reading Mr. Said is like being yelled at for hours on end, and it takes a good and willing ear to appreciate his calmer passages of insight, to hear the essential melodies that run beneath the discordant onslaughts."
Mr. Said's first marriage, to Maire Jaanus, ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Mariam Cortas, a son, Wadie, and a daughter, Najla.
Why do I feel that the bigots who dismiss the paper of record as the "Jew York Times" are going to go to town on this?
Posted by Felix at 05:46 PM GMT

You beat me to it. Also dead today, Nobel prize winning economist Franco Modigliani, thanks to whom my bank account is in the state it's in.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on September 25, 2003 09:27 PM

Some people aren't quite as sad about his passing.

There are a number of articles linked there that rip Orientalism to shreds.

Rip, Eddie.

Posted by: parisian mons on September 26, 2003 07:25 AM

Damn. My link didn't appear.

Posted by: Parisian Mons on September 26, 2003 07:26 AM

That disgusting David Shipler comment doesn't appear in my issue of the NYT. I wonder how that works? Maybe my copy was put out later and some editor decided to snip out the especially disgusting comment.

Posted by: Donald Johnson on September 27, 2003 07:23 PM

I think you're right, Donald, and that the obit was toned down between appearing on and appearing in print. But, as following the link will show you, the piece online remains unabridged.

Posted by: Felix on September 28, 2003 05:12 AM

Professor Said was an apologist in both the prejoratith and nonprejoratith sense for the Muslim 3rd world.
One shortcoming, which isn't obvious if you approached him with a view to issue a simplistic yay or nay opinion of him, was the fact that without himself being aware of it he would allow himself to crticize various aspects of Arab culture while damning people like Fouad Ajami or Bernard Lewis if they made the same comments.

Posted by: David Tharp on October 28, 2003 03:39 PM