Expanded selections from the Edward Said Reader (2000), including parts of the author’s memoirs and posthumous essays.
Edited by Said’s former doctoral students Bayoumi (English/Brooklyn Coll.; This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror, 2015, etc.) and Rubin (Archives of Authority: Empire, Culture, and the Cold War, 2012), the collection moves chronologically through Edward Said's (1935-2003) distinguished literary career. The selections are framed nicely by Said's initial abstract investigation into how autobiography played in the fiction of Joseph Conrad (1966) and his final fascination with the “late style” as Theodor Adorno defined in his work on Beethoven. As noted helpfully in the editors’ brief introduction to each selection, Said, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian raised largely in Cairo and schooled in the West, was radicalized by the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, underscoring the “disappeared worlds” of his own youth and essentially plunging him into his subsequent lifelong literary pursuits of exile, dislocation, and authority. He became deeply politically engaged, and the pivotal work that made his initial reputation, Orientalism (1978), delineating Europe’s representations of the East, had a hard time finding a publisher due to its anti-mainstream, pro-Palestinian stance. Said wrote relentlessly about the Palestinian national experience and emphasized that it belonged within the discussion of Zionism, while his own experience of peripatetic rootlessness informed his essay “Traveling Theory” (1982) as well as his Proustian memoir, Out of Place (1999). Also an accomplished pianist and music critic, Said collaborated with Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim on numerous projects (several of Said’s journalistic essays on music are presented here). His last uncompleted work, on “timeliness and lateness,” is especially intriguing, as he was dying of cancer and was fascinated by aging artists’ “unresolved contradiction” as a form of exile.
What becomes most evident rereading Said’s work—besides the startlingly clear prose and impeccable scholarship—is how his contrary, original thought has affected other intellectual disciplines.