Born November 1, 1935
Died September 25, 2003
Political, social, and arts critic and commentator; contributor to Palestine's Declaration of Statehood (1988)
"Palestine is a thankless cause…. How many friends avoid the subject? How many colleagues want nothing of Palestine's controversy? How many liberals have time for Bosnia and Somalia and South Africa and Nicaragua and human and civil rights everywhere on Earth, but not for Palestine and the Palestinians?"
E dward Said was the most visible supporter in the United States for Palestinian people. He helped author the English-language version of the Palestine Declaration of Statehood in 1988, through which the Palestine Liberation Organization sought to establish a nation of Palestinian people. They had been without a country since 1947, living in lands occupied first by Jordan and Egypt, and then after 1967 by Israel. In 1991, however, Said resigned from his position on the Palestine National Committee because he was dissatisfied with the Palestine leadership and negotiations over statehood. By that time, Said had long distinguished himself as a literary and opera critic, television commentator, and popular public lecturer. His editorials on the Middle East appeared in major newspapers worldwide. He was also an accomplished pianist and formed the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with Israeli Daniel Barenboim (1942–) in 1999. They shared a belief that art is limitless in its potential, unlike political ideologies.
Out of place
Edward W. Said (pronounced sah-EED) was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, on November 1, 1935, to Wadie and Hilda Musa Said. Said's father had immigrated to the United States before World War I (1914–18). After serving with U.S. forces in France during the war, Wadie Said returned to Jerusalem. He was a wealthy businessman in writing supplies and thought of himself as a Westerner (someone from Europe or the United States; he held American citizenship). He preferred to be called William (an Americanized version of Wadie) and named his son Edward after England's prince of Wales (1894–1972). Said's mother was the daughter of a Baptist minister from Nazareth. The marriage of Said's parents was arranged (a marriage contract negotiated by parties other than both the bride and the groom).
The Said family spoke English at home, using Arabic only when speaking to servants. The mix of Western influences in a Middle Eastern environment left Said with a divided sense of identity as he grew up, as he noted in his autobiography, Out of Place: A Memoir (1999). He always felt that he was an outsider, as the title of his autobiography implies.
Said grew up primarily in Cairo, Egypt, where his father's business was located. The family owned property in Jerusalem, in the region that since ancient times had been called Palestine, but they were permanently exiled from Palestine after the Arab-Israeli War (1947–49). The war was fought after the United Nations (UN) divided land in the Middle East that had been occupied by Great Britain after World War I and had been called Palestine. The UN wanted to provide for two nations, Israel and Palestine (see box). The surrounding Arab nations refused to recognize the Jewish state of Israel, and a war was fought in which the Jewish people were successful. Thousands of Palestinians became refugees, or people without a homeland, following that war.
Said was educated at a private school in Cairo. In 1951, he immigrated to the United States and finished his high-school education at Mount Hermon, a private school in Massachusetts. Said graduated from Princeton University in 1957 and then went on to Harvard University. While attaining his master's degree (1960) and his doctorate in philosophy (Ph.D., 1964) from Harvard, he worked as a tutor in history and literature. He became a professor of literature at Columbia University in 1963 and continued there for over thirty years while also serving as a visiting professor at several American universities.
Said's first book, Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography (1966), set the tone for his work as a critic of literature. Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) was born in Poland but spent much of his early life at sea, working on sailing ships and in the British Merchant Navy. He later wrote fictional works set in places he had traveled, such as Africa and the Far East. In his book on Conrad, Said argued that the author, like other Western writers, projected political dimensions in his work that represented the viewpoint of colonialists, or nations that exert control over a foreign land and impose laws and customs on the people—in effect, "civilizing" them according to standards set by the colonialists. That dimension, noted Said, should be considered when reading all Western literature.
During his twenties, Said concentrated on graduate school, teaching, literary criticism, and music; he was also an excellent pianist and became a critic on opera. His political interests were stirred after he turned thirty by the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, which Israel won and resulted in many more Palestinians losing their property. After the war in the late 1940s, Palestinians lived in lands on the west bank of the Jordan River, under the authority of Jordan, and on the Gaza strip (a strip of land between Israel and Egypt), under the authority of Egypt. After the war of 1967, those two areas fell under the control of Israel. Said began following events and became involved in the Palestinians' attempt to form a nation. Meanwhile, Said was married in 1970 to Mariam Cortas. They would have two children, Wadie and Najla. Said continue to write literary criticism while his political involvement deepened.
Joins the Palestinian cause
Said was elected to the Palestine National Council (PNC) in 1977. This group provided advice to Yasir Arafat (1929–), leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in his effort to win international recognition for a Palestinian
state. Unlike some members of the council who supported armed conflict with Israel, Said advocated the two-state solution (see box). Said favored recognition of Israel; Arab states and most Arab people did not at that time. After much bloodshed in the Middle East and much debate among Palestinian leaders, the policy was adopted at a PNC meeting in Algiers, Algeria, in 1988. Said drafted the English version of the Palestinian declaration of statehood. Meanwhile, he represented the Palestinian view in articles in American magazines and as a commentator on television news programs.
Recognition of Israel's right to exist opened the way for the United States to work with the PLO and Israel in such talks as the Madrid Conference in Spain and the Oslo Peace Process in Norway. As the peace process gained momentum, however, Said adopted an increasingly critical stance. In 1991, he resigned from the PNC, believing the Oslo declaration was more favorable to Israel. Said had come under increasingly negative criticism by Israeli supporters in the United States, and now he was criticized by Palestinian supporters as well. He became the subject of censorship by Palestinian authorities. His advocacy of Palestinian rights did not prevent him from criticizing Palestinian policies and leadership.
"Said made lots of enemies," noted an obituary that appeared in Newsweek magazine upon Said's death in 2003. "His searing critiques of American Middle East policy made him a bogeyman for many in the pro-Israel camp: There were demands that he be reprimanded by Columbia [University] after he threw a stone at Israel from across the Lebanese border. And yet his condemnations of Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian regime and Arab intellectuals' 'creeping, nasty wave of anti-Semitism and hypocritical righteousness' led some Arabs to denounce him as a traitor."
Palestine in Recent History
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition, or divide, an area of the Middle East, known historically as Palestine and which had been under the control of Great Britain since World War I, into two states, one Jewish, and one Arab. Palestinian Arabs and the surrounding Arab states rejected the partition. The Jewish population accepted it, and on May 14, 1948, they declared independence and formed the state of Israel. Armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria invaded Israel. Large numbers of Palestinian Arabs fled during the fighting, and others were expelled from their homes. The Jewish forces prevailed, and the state of Israel was established.
The territories that were to form an Arab state in Palestine were occupied by Jordan (the West Bank) and Egypt (the Gaza Strip) from 1948 to 1967, when Israel entered those areas, defended them in the Six Day War, and occupied them afterward. Palestinians have struggled to assert their independence since then. The word "Palestine" describes a geographical area and the proposed state of the Palestinian people.
During the period from 1978 to 1991 when Said was a member of the PNC, he wrote several more books, including two that examine European and American representations of the peoples and societies of the Middle East. Orientalism (1978) argues that scholars, journalists, and creative writers stereotype Middle Eastern cultures as unchanging and violent. These negative depictions, Said continued, come to inform popular attitudes and then public policy toward the region and are used to justify Western economic and political domination of the Middle East. Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (1981) points to ways Western media perpetuate stereotypes, or present the same images, often unflattering, over and over again, of Muslims and ignores the diversity of Islamic beliefs. "With Orientalism," wrote Habeeb Salloum, "Said transformed the way people looked at Islam, the Arabs, and the Middle East. This work, and his later book, Culture and Imperialism (1993), were important studies of how artistic creation and cultural prejudices converge [come together] and made him a much-sought-after lecturer in the intellectual world."
Said discussed the plight of Palestinians and the momentum building toward the declaration of statehood in 1988 in such works as The Question of Palestine (1979) and After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives (1986). In these works, Said traced the history of the Palestinians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and argues that Palestinian efforts to obtain statehood have been made to appear unjustifiable by some Israeli supporters.
During the 1990s, Said continued to be outspoken, attacking what he saw as Israeli violations of the human rights of Palestinians and condemning U.S. policies in the Middle East in articles and on national television news programs. He also continued writing a music column for The Nation magazine and a column for the Arabic newspapers al-Hayat in London and Al-Ahram in Egypt. His articles appeared in U.S. periodicals as well as in newspapers in France, Italy, Sweden, Britain, Spain, Pakistan, India, and Japan.
Said was diagnosed with leukemia, a form of cancer, in the early 1990s. As his health grew fragile near the end of the decade, he began focusing his energy on music. He founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with Daniel Barenboim, an
Israeli citizen, in 1999. With Said's assistance (Said was an accomplished pianist), Barenboim gave master classes for Palestinian students in the West Bank, which was occupied by Israel. The orchestra made a triumphant tour of Europe.
Said also wrote his autobiography, Out of Place: A Memoir (1999). Looking back on his youth, Said wrote, "A constant property links young Edward with the adult Said: the notion of out of placeness, of exile, as changeless, permanent features of his personality that existed before he could have known what the future had in store for him." Said's final works included The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After (2000), his reflections on why negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians failed in the 1990s; Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (2000), a collection of Said's writings on politics and literature; and Power, Politics, and Culture: Interviews with Edward W. Said (2001), a collection of interviews and panel discussions involving Said from the years 1976 to 2000.
"Power, Politics, and Culture covers a wide range of topics, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the peace process, the Gulf War, Middle East politics, literary criticism, cultural theory, opera, and travel drawn from a variety of publications, both in the United States and abroad," noted Habeeb Salloum in Contemporary Review. Upon Said's death in 2003, Salloum said, "His political activism and his enormous on-going contributions to humanities, as well as his wide-ranging intellectual life for many years aroused passionate feelings, pro and con, among his readers." Salloum added, "He appealed to a large constituency of devotees throughout the world who regarded him as a paragon [model of excellence] of intellectuals."
For More Information
Marrouchi, Mustapha. Edward Said at the Limits. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.
Said, Edward W. The Edward Said Reader. Edited by Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.
Said, Edward W. Out of Place: A Memoir. New York: Knopf, 1999.
"Edward Said: Appreciation of Writer, Teacher, Music Critic and Contributor to The Nation; Critic of Western Imperialism and Champion of Palestinian Liberation" (obituary). The Nation (October 20, 2003): p. 4.
Salloum, Habeeb. "Edward Said: The Palestinian Intellectual Champion." Contemporary Review (November 2003): pp. 271–74.
"A Scholar and Exile: Edward Said" (obituary). Newsweek International (October 6, 2003): p. 60.
The Edward Said Archive.http://www.edwardsaid.org/modules/news/ (accessed on March 24, 2004).
Ruthven, Malise. "Edward Said: Controversial Literary Critic and Bold Advocate of the Palestinian Cause in America" (obituary). The Guardian (September 26, 2003). http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1049931,00.html (accessed on March 24, 2004).
Said, Edward 1935-2003
Edward Said is recognized as one of the most influential literary critics of the last quarter of the twentieth century. Said’s contributions to postcolonial and critical theory, the humanities, cultural studies, social geography, and the social sciences evade easy categorization given the startling breadth and range of his thought. Influenced by Michel Foucault, Giambattista Vico, Georg Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon, and Theodor Adorno and a self-proclaimed admirer of Sigmund Freud, Said was among the first to introduce American academic audiences to structuralism, poststructuralism, and to a lesser extent deconstruction.
A critical scholar nevertheless deeply committed to humanism, Said was also a public intellectual known for his eloquent commitment to Palestinian self-determination. Born in Jerusalem, Said fled with his family to Cairo in 1948 and a few years later relocated to the United States. He studied at Princeton and then at Harvard, where he wrote a PhD dissertation on Joseph Conrad, then joined Columbia in 1963. Unexpectedly moved by the profound injustice of the dispossession of the Palestinians, with whom he increasingly identified as an exiled intellectual, he found the Six Days War of 1967 a politicizing moment and significant turning point in his life. Over the next several decades Said became a frequent commentator on U.S. foreign policy and Middle Eastern politics. He was a regular contributor to Al-Hayat (a London-based Arab daily) and Al-Ahram Weekly (an Egyptian daily) as well as serving as the music critic for the Nation.
Said is best known for his groundbreaking work Orientalism (1978). Widely acknowledged as a cornerstone text for postcolonial studies, this acclaimed work has also had profound influences on social geography, cultural studies, and radical history. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of discourse, Said exposes Orientalism as a Western system of thought that is linked to imperialism and the establishment of cultural hegemony and is an essentializing discourse that effectively produces the “Orient” as the West’s “other.” Orientalism observes the West observing the Middle East, Arabs, and Islam, and two further volumes in the triology, The Question of Palestine (1979) and Covering Islam (1981), sustain this focus. In the trilogy’s 1993 sequel, Culture and Imperialism, Said expands these insights to explore a more generalized relationship between cultural production and empire. In the latter text he draws on European writing (and one musical piece, Verdi’s Aida ) on Africa, India, the Far East, Australia, and the Caribbean to show how an imperialist imagination is embedded in cultural production and how cultures of resistance to imperialism emerge in a context of decolonization.
The Question of Palestine (1979) was Said’s first major text on Palestine, and in it he endeavors to establish a broadly representative Palestinian perspective for a Western, and primarily an American, audience. This particular text documents the historical and political dispossession and erasure of the Palestinians by Zionist colonization and thus differs distinctly from Orientalism, which drew mainly on literary texts. However, in method Said effectively demonstrates that a hegemonic cultural attitude toward Islam, the Arabs, and the Orient is what makes the ongoing colonial violence against the Palestinians a possibility. Thus the “Palestinian problem” is a materialized effect of Orientalism. Covering Islam proceeds similarly but with a focus on the Western media’s role in representing, and imagining, Islam. Other books on Palestine include The Politics of Dispossession (1994), After the Last Sky (1986), Blaming the Victims (1988), and The End of the Peace Process (2000).
Said’s wide-ranging and often controversial thought is rooted in literary theory. His dissertation on Joseph Conrad’s letters was influenced by the Geneva school, a vein of literary criticism rooted in the phenomenological thought of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, and became his first book, Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography (1966). For Said, Conrad’s letters revealed the uncertainty, difficulty, and reflexive struggle of a self-exiled Pole, an articulate writer who was nevertheless disoriented and not quite sure of his place in the world. An interest in the condition of the exiled writer, a theme that continues through his life’s work, is palpably present in this first book.
Said’s second book, Beginnings: Intention and Method (1975), began to establish his reputation as one of America’s foremost literary critics, as the text drew on contemporary French theory in its concerns to shift from theological “origins” to the problem of a secular “beginning” point for critical theory, where human action makes history, and a history of change. The text explores the relation of literature to philosophy, psychology, and critical theory through an engagement with the writings of Freud, Foucault, Freidrich Nietzsche, and Vico as well as Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Giles Deleuze, and Claude Lévi-Strauss.
The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983) is an early “bridging” text of Said’s thought. This integrative and synthetic work is interested in the material contexts—the “worldliness”—of writing. Increasingly impatient with an academic domestication of poststructuralist and deconstructive theories of textuality, Said argues that critical scholarship must be situated in material struggles so that the critic does not lose sight of the political context in which intellectual pursuits become possible. The text is an early critique of the narrow confines of academic disciplinarity, which Said argues is implicated in a tamed specialization of intellectual inquiry. His deep commitments to humanism are evident in this text, and he returns again to these themes in a series of lectures given at Columbia University, posthumously published under the title Humanism and Democratic Criticism (2004). In this text Said reflects on the tensions between humanist, structuralist, and poststructuralist modes, and he suggests that although humanism is critiqued as essentializing and totalizing, a commitment to the humanistic ideals of justice and equality are nevertheless crucial for a critical scholar. Throughout his vast and disparate body of work, Said maintains a critical posture within humanism, a “contrapuntal” awareness perhaps made possible by the condition of being an exilic, border intellectual.
A talented pianist, Said also wrote extensively on music’s relation to society, and his critical writings often draw on musical metaphors. Musical Elaborations (1991), Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society (2002), and the posthumously published On Late Style: Music and Literature against the Grain (2006) exemplify his significant contributions to this interdisciplinary area of humanistic study. In 2003 Said died in New York after a decade-long battle with leukemia.
SEE ALSO Fanon, Frantz; Foucault, Michel; Freud, Sigmund; Gramsci, Antonio; Humanism; Justice; Lucas Critique; Music; Orientalism; Palestinians; Postcolonialism; Self-Determination
Ali, Tariq. 2006. Conversations with Edward Said. Oxford: Seagull Books.
Ashcroft, Bill, and Pal Ahluwalia. 1999. Edward Said: The Paradox of Identity. London and New York: Routledge.
Bayoumi, Moustafa, and Andrew Rubin, eds. 2000. The Edward Said Reader. New York: Vintage.
Bhabha, Homi, and W. J. T. Mitchell. 2005. Edward Said: Continuing the Conversation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Hussein, Abdirahman A. 2002. Edward Said: Criticism and Society. London and New York: Verso.
Sprinkler, Michael, ed. 1992. Edward Said: A Critical Reader. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
Melissa Autumn White
Said, Edward W.
The American writer and academic Edward Said (1935–2003) has been ranked among the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, with much of the field of postcolonial studies springing directly or indirectly from his ideas. He was also an intellectual in action, devoting much of his energy to advocacy for the Palestinian people and their aspirations.
Controversial in his work, Said had both admirers and detractors. Few statements beyond the bare facts of his life would meet with universal agreement from observers, and even those bare facts were sometimes in dispute. But divergent views of Said were, in a way, inevitable, for Said was a man of many contradictions. He was an academic, and yet he spent much of his time addressing the public, often having to cancel classes he taught at Columbia University because he was booked for television appearances. He was a Christian Arab who both defended the Islamic world and, by his own testimony, felt close to Jews for much of his life. He spent many years working toward the goal of Palestinian nationhood but renounced that goal in the last decade of his life. He was attacked by Israelis as a terrorist, and by Palestinians as too accommodating to Israel. Said's scholarly works indicted Western cultural traditions as complicit in colonialism, but he played and wrote about European classical music extensively and enthusiastically.
Grew Up in Cairo
Said (sah-EED) was born in Jerusalem on November 1, 1935, when the city was part of British-occupied Palestine. His father was an American citizen who had fought for the United States in World War I, and Said himself was named after Britain's King Edward VIII. Said's father, Wadie, who preferred the name of Bill, operated a profitable stationery business, and Said was discouraged from speaking Arabic while growing up; the household language was English. He was a member of the Anglican church. Later in his life Said occasionally spoke of himself as a refugee displaced by the formation of the country of Israel in 1948, but he actually spent much of his childhood in Cairo, Egypt, sometimes traveling to Jerusalem to spend time with relatives, or to Beirut, Lebanon.
The family moved permanently to Cairo in 1947, and for a time Said attended Victoria College, an upscale British preparatory school there. Among his classmates were actor Omar Sharif and Jordan's future King Hussein. At 15, Said came to the United States to attend Mount Hermon School, an elite boarding institution in Massachusetts. Said, who had already traveled through many countries but never really called any of them home, felt out of place at Mount Hermon and frequently circulated among a group of Jewish friends. He did take to American classroom teaching, which encouraged more independent thinking than had the British instructors he had experienced previously.
Said, a charismatic figure who favored tailored suits, found a natural place in academic life. He spoke English, French, and Arabic fluently, and he could read Spanish, German, Italian, and Latin. He attended Princeton University, graduating in 1957, and earned master's and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard, receiving his doctorate in 1964. Hired at Columbia University in New York as an instructor in 1963, Said spent the rest of his working life there, becoming assistant professor in 1965, associate professor in 1968, and professor of English and comparative literature in 1970; later his title of professor was attached to several endowed chairs at Columbia. He was married twice; with his second wife, the former Mariam Cortas (a Quaker), he raised a son and a daughter.
Said's first book, Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, published by Harvard University Press in 1966, dealt with an author to whom he felt a kinship (Conrad, Polish by birth, traveled the world and learned English later in life). The following year, Israel defeated the combined forces of several Arab countries in the Six-Day War, an event that began to awaken Said's political consciousness. He wrote a book called Beginnings: Intention and Method (1975) about literary creativity, but he was at work on a larger project that broke new ground in literary studies.
Examined Language of Western Enlightenment
That book, Orientalism, was published by Pantheon (a mainstream, not an academic publisher) in 1978. It remains Said's best-known and most influential work. The book took issue with Western depictions of the Middle East, and the methods of analysis Said employed were quickly applied to the West's relations to other cultures of the developing world by other scholars. Indeed, Said observed that the "East," as opposed to the "West," was an invention partly designed as an ideological underpinning for Western colonialism. Said's central thesis was that Western views of Middle Eastern cultures were rife with stereotypes of irrationality, degeneracy, and violence. His demonstration of this thesis was perhaps the book's most original component, as he showed how such stereotypes found their way into scholarly writings, literary and popular fiction, and journalistic writing in an interconnected web.
Some reviewers felt that the book painted the works of Western writers with too broad a brush, but Said's elegant style (his writing was free of academic jargon) quickly made the book a favorite. Said's work opened up numerous new avenues for investigation of Western representations of other cultures—and of indigenous responses to such representations in so-called post-colonial literature. Three decades after it was written, Orientalism has remained a solid part of reading lists in college and graduate-level English courses in the United States and beyond. The book's tone, sharp and provocative yet with arguments buttressed by an obvious depth of knowledge, have made it ideal for educational uses. The ideas of postcolonial studies and of the relationships between language and power became fodder for academic studies and graduate school papers over the next few decades, and these ideas were traceable to Said's innovations.
Said expanded and generalized on the ideas in Orientalism in Culture and Imperialism (1992). He was also a prolific writer of both academic and general articles, and bits and pieces of his ideas on Western culture emerged in such writings as his introduction to a new edition of Rudyard Kipling's Kim, and in several collections of writings by others that he edited. In the 1980s, however, Said became equally well known for purely political writings and public appearances, in which he argued for recognition of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. According to the New York Times, Said describe himself as "a man who lived two quite separate lives," although one could equally well describe him as an intellectual in action. Indeed, Said's book The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983) dealt with how literary critics could come to terms with their own cultural assumptions.
In 1977 Said became a member of the Palestinian National Council, a provisional parliament established with the goal of pursuing eventual Palestinian nationhood; he was an independent, not a member of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization or any other group. Said wrote his first book on the Middle East situation, The Question of Palestine, in 1979. He rejected the use of violence (although in some statements he argued that it was understandable) and accepted the existence of Israel, saying in an interview quoted in the London Guardian, "I don't deny [Israel's] claims" to land in the Palestine region, "but their claim always entails Palestinian dispossession." In the 1980s Said favored a two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side by side. In 1988 he was sent by Arafat to negotiate on the Palestinians' behalf with U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz.
Became Disillusioned with Peace Process
Said's attitudes changed during the negotiations leading to the so-called Oslo Accords of 1993 (the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements), which called for Israeli withdrawal from parts of the territories it had occupied in the Gaza Strip and West Bank areas, as well as for the establishment of the Palestinian Authority as a governing body, and for continued negotiations on remaining issues such as the status of the city of Jerusalem. Said became a critic of the Palestinian leadership, which he felt was giving up too much in the negotiations, and he resigned from the Palestinian National Council in 1991.
Specifically, Said objected to the lack of provision in the PLO's position for the so-called right of return, the right of Palestinians to inhabit lands from which they had been expelled when the Israeli state was established. In the 1990s he began to advocate the peaceful coexistence of Palestinians and Israelis in a single democratic country—a solution viewed by many Israelis as tantamount to the destruction of their country as it had existed. "I see no other way than to begin now to speak about sharing the land that has thrust us together, and sharing it in a truly democratic way, with equal rights for each citizen," Said wrote in the New York Times.
Said outlined his case for Palestinian aspirations in The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination (1994) and End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After (2000), as well as in numerous shorter writings and in U.S. television appearances. But he had many interests other than those of politics and scholarship. A pianist of near concert-level skill, he wrote extensively on classical music, penning a column for the Nation magazine. In the early 1990s he was diagnosed with leukemia but was able to continue his public activities after treatment. One of several books published after Said's death (he wrote voluminously during his final years) was On Late Style (2006), an examination of works produced by literary and musical artists toward the ends of their lives. Beginning in 1999, he and conductor Daniel Barenboim co-founded the East West Divan Orchestra, a joint Israeli-Palestinian youth ensemble that continued to win acclaim after Said's death. In 2002 Barenboim and Said published a joint book of their collected conversations, Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society.
Controversy continued to envelop the ailing Said, with the magazine Commentary referring to him (according to the Guardian) as a "professor of terror." He was photographed throwing a stone at an Israeli guardhouse, but maintained that his gesture was symbolic and that he had not aimed the stone toward any individual; Columbia, despite calls for his censure, found in his favor and took no action. Said participated vigorously in the give-and-take of debate, carrying on long disputes in print with Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis and other conservative thinkers. In 1999 an article in Commentary by an Israeli scholar charged that Said had deliberately falsified the details of his childhood in order to heighten the impression that his family had been refugees displaced from their Jerusalem home in the 1940s. The article pointed to such statements by Said as one that appeared in the London Review of Books: "I was born in Jerusalem and spent most of my formative years there and, after 1948, when my entire family became refugees, in Egypt." But Said's memoir Out of Place, which appeared that same year, went into detail about his Cairo childhood. "I don't think it's that important, in any case," Said told the New York Times. "I have never represented my case as the issue to be treated. I've represented the case of my people, which is something quite different.
Said's medical condition worsened in 2002, and he worked against the clock to finish several new books, including On Late Style, From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map, and Humanism and Democratic Criticism. All were published after his death from leukemia on September 25, 2003, in New York. Among the literary awards he received in his last years was one for lifetime achievement, bestowed by the Lannan Foundation in 2001.
Said, Edward, Out of Place: A Memoir, Knopf, 1999.
Sprinker, Michael, ed., Edward Said: A Critical Reader, Black-well, 1993.
Commentary, September 1999.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), September 26, 2003.
Economist (U.S.), October 4, 2003.
Financial Times, September 26, 2003.
Guardian (London, England), September 26, 2003
Irish Times, September 27, 2003.
New Statesman, March 29, 2004; June 14, 2004; May 29, 2006.
New York Times, September 26, 2003.
Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2007, http://www.galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC (January 7, 2007).