Anyone who watches the last recorded interview that Edward Said gave will feel great sympathy for the man. Still urbane and fluent, he was so wracked by his long disease that was soon to kill him, and so evidently suffering, that he could not even listen any longer to his beloved music, let alone play the piano, which he had always done with talent and skill early in his life, having considered a career as a professional musician.
There were other reasons for longer-term sympathy for the radical academic and founder of “postcolonial” studies, whose life is chronicled in Timothy Brennan’s new Places of Mind. A highly talented man with beautiful manners, he was never completely at ease with himself, I think because there was always a conflict between his patrician western cultural taste and what he felt his political sympathies ought to be. A man who lived in New York but insisted on Savile Row tailoring and who sent to London for a certain kind of tobacco could not be an altogether convincing tribune for the suffering masses of the Middle East, particularly the Palestinians.
Theodore Dalrymple is a contributing editor of City Journal and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
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