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OUT OF PLACE by Edward W. Said

OUT OF PLACE

A Memoir

By Edward W. Said

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1999
ISBN: 0-394-58739-1
Publisher: Knopf

Said’s compassionate and lyrical memoir explores his feelings of displacement in both his cultural setting and his family, revealing the roots of his intellectual, political, and personal unfolding. A distinguished cultural critic (The Politics of Dispossession, 1994, etc.), Said has gained a reputation as a bold intellectual and a noted spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. Faced with a diagnosis of leukemia in 1991, Said decided to recapture the world of his early childhood in Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon, followed by what turned out to be a permanent move to the US. The result is a “record of an essentially lost or forgotten world.” This is a bittersweet memoir of a boyhood in a sleepy summer town in Lebanon, of the cosmopolitan, colonial world of Cairo in the “40s and “50s, and of the dramatic changes in Palestine before Israel gained statehood. It’s also the story of Said’s early sense of alienation, the distinct (and eventually cherished) feeling of being an outsider. A Christian Palestinian in Cairo with a proper British name and a father with American citizenship, the young Said felt out of place early on. Said is an insightful and close observer of the details of daily life that create an entire mood in a people or family. The subject of his own family—a pampered and eerily sheltered group—is equally central to Said’s critical yet tender account of his growth from the confused and insecure “Edward” (a creation of his parents) into an emotionally and intellectually mature man. Said devotes enormous lyrical and emotional energy to presenting his parents’ role in his life, describing in heart-wrenching detail the domineering father and the influential, manipulative mother who watched his every move. Both culturally and emotionally, maturity for Said could only come from a separation from his early life. A beautiful and moving account that stands on its own as a classic in the art of memoir and as a key to understanding the genesis of Said’s intellectual work.