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Re: Edward Said, Dead at 66 (from ZNet)
by manjeet chaturvedi
26 September 2003 14:50 UTC
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who else would be grieved,
 perhaps  those too in whose orientalism Said
i am shocked to learn the death of this towering man
of letters .
manjeet chaturvedi,
professor of sociology, banaras hindu university,
varanasi, india  
--- Khaldoun Samman <ibnsubhi@yahoo.com> wrote:

                        ZNet | Mideast | Edward Said, Dead at 66                
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Alexander Cockburn on Edward Said 
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                                Edward Said, Dead at 66
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Alexander  Cockburn
September 25, 2003                              
Edward Said died in hospital in New York City
Wednesday night at 6.30 pm, felled at last by
complications arising from the leukemia he fought so
gamely ever since the early 1990s.

We march through life buoyed by those comrades-in-arms
we know to be marching with us, under the same
banners, flying the same colors, sustained by the same
hopes and convictions. They can be a thousand miles
away; we may not have spoken to them in months; but
their companionship is burned into our souls and we
are sustained by the knowledge that they are with us
in the world.

Few more than Edward Said, for me and so many others
beside. How many times, after a week, a month or more,
I have reached him on the phone and within a second
been lofted in my spirits, as we pressed through our
updates: his trips, his triumphs, the insults
sustained; the enemies rebuked and put to flight. Even
in his pettiness he was magnificent, and as I would
laugh at his fury at some squalid gibe hurled at him
by an eighth-rate scrivener, he would clamber from the
pedestal of martyrdom and laugh at himself.

He never lost his fire, even as the leukemia pressed,
was routed, pressed again. He lived at a rate that
would have felled a man half his age and ten times as
healthy: a plane to London, an honorary degree, on to
Lebanon, on to the West Bank, on to Cairo, to Madrid,
back to New York. And all the while he was pouring out
the Said prose that I most enjoyed, the fiery
diatribes he distributed to CounterPunch and to a vast
world audience. At the top of his form his prose has
the pitiless, relentless clarity of Swift.

The Palestinians will never know a greater polemical
champion. A few weeks ago I was, with his genial
permission, putting together from three of his essays
the concluding piece in our forthcoming CounterPunch
collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. I was
seized, as so often before, by the power of the prose:
how could anyone read those searing sentences and not
boil with rage, while simultaneously admiring Edward's
generosity of soul: that with the imperative of
justice and nationhood for his people came the
humanity that called for reconciliation between
Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

His literary energy was prodigious. Memoir, criticism,
homily, fiction poured from his pen, a fountain pen
that reminded one that Edward was very much an
intellectual in the nineteenth- century tradition of a
Zola or of a Victor Hugo, who once remarked that
genius is a promontory in the infinite. I read that
line as a schoolboy, wrote it in my notebook and
though I laugh now a little at the pretension of the
line, I do think of Edward as a promontory, a physical
bulk on the intellectual and political landscape that
forced people, however disinclined they may have been,
to confront the Palestinian experience.

Years ago his wife Mariam asked me if I would make
available my apartment in New York, where I lived at
that time, as the site for a surprise 40th birthday
for Edward. I dislike surprise parties but of course
agreed. The evening arrived; guests assembled on my
sitting room on the eleventh floor of 333 Central Park
West. The dining room table groaned under Middle
Eastern delicacies. Then came the word from the front
door. Edward and Mariam had arrived! They were
ascending in the elevator. Then we could all hear
Edward's furious bellow: "But I don't want to go to
dinner with *******, Alex!" They entered at last and
the shout went up from seventy throats, Happy
Birthday! He reeled back in surprise and then
recovered, and then saw about the room all those
friends happy to have traveled thousands of miles to
shake his hand. I could see him slowly expand with joy
at each new unexpected face and salutation.

He never became blase in the face of friendship and
admiration, or indeed honorary degrees, just as he
never grew a thick skin. Each insult was as fresh and
as wounding as the first he ever received. A quarter
of century ago he would call, with mock heroic English
intonation, "Alex-and-er, have you seen the latest New
Republic? Have you read this filthy, this utterly
disgusting diatribe? You haven't? Oh, I know, you
don't care about the feelings of a mere black man such
as myself." I'd start laughing, and say I had better
things to do than read Martin Peretz, or Edward
Alexander or whoever the assailant was, but for half
an hour he would brood, rehearse fiery rebuttals and
listen moodily as I told him to pay no attention.

He never lost the capacity to be wounded by the
treachery and opportunism of supposed friends. A few
weeks ago he called to ask whether I had read a
particularly stupid attack on him by his very old
friend Christopher Hitchens in the Atlantic Monthly.
He described with pained sarcasm a phone call in which
Hitchens had presumably tried to square his own
conscience by advertising to Edward the impending
assault. I asked Edward why he was surprised, and
indeed why he cared. But he was surprised and he did
care. His skin was so, so thin, I think because he
knew that as long as he lived, as long as he marched
onward as a proud, unapologetic and vociferous
Palestinian, there would be some enemy on the next
housetop down the street eager to pour sewage on his

Edward, dear friend, I wave adieu to you across the
abyss. I don't even have to close my eyes to savor
your presence, your caustic or merry laughter, your
elegance, your spirit as vivid as that of d'Artagnan,
the fiery Gascon. You will burn like the brightest of
flames in my memory, as you will in the memories of
all who knew and admired and loved you. 


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