Saturday, September 27, 2003

Said comments
Among the comments on Edward Said, this one by Charles Paul Freund in the Daily Star (and which picks up on a theme he developed in Reason magazine here) is well worth reading. It's main thesis is that the Orientalist critique, though it survives, has in many of its manifestations hit a brick wall of sorts, so that one of it's primary characteristics today is its transformation into a form of "Occidentalism"--whereby it is the West that is "objectified" and rendered into an Other.

Christopher Hitchens has written a remarkably warm obituary in Slate, which manages to highlight Said's sensitivity and paper over the real differences between the two men in recent months, while also underlining that Said's political views were, at times, wrong. The real story is often in the details, and Hitchens affirms that the two were on speaking terms almost until the end, with Said recently demanding that Hitchens write about a Palestinian organization known as the Palestinian National Initiative.

The merit of both pieces is that they give Said his due without being reverential. It was also with some surprise that I learned in perusing Out of Place, Said's partial autobiography, that the doctor who had diagnosed Said with leukemia is an old family friend of ours--a piece of information surely of no general interest, except to show how small the world of the Christian Levantine is, even if Said often insisted that he did not identify with any such group.

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