Edward W. Said – literary critic and public intellectual



Edward W. Said's works elevate him to the position of one of the most influential thinkers on the political implications of culture in our time

In their time, the most influential literary critics in the United States were Edward W. Said (1935-2003) and Susan Sontag (1933-2004), who inhabited the world simultaneously, as the dates indicate. The two are at the root of the renewal of the field, not only literary, but cultural, having practically invented post-colonial and decolonization studies, still in force today. They drew attention to multiculturalism and diversity, trying to combat ethnocentrism, xenophobia and misogyny. Thus, new trends in thought originated in two literary critics, graduates in Literature and literature professors.

Both had a similar profile, because it was unprecedented that the country's main literary critics were not from WASP (white anglosaxon protestant), that is, they were not white people from a traditional family settled in Mayflower. On the contrary, they came from immigration. And they belonged to minorities: she was Jewish and gay, as well as a woman, he was a Palestinian, Christian Arab. Therefore, they have always been at the epicenter of controversies. They were not exactly marginalized, as they belonged to a bourgeoisie that was able to provide them with the best schools. outsiders, Yes. And this condition undoubtedly sharpened their vision and made them produce a work of high critical content.

Regarding education, Edward W. Said is a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, while Susan Sontag has a more varied path, with degrees at Berkeley and Chicago, followed by postgraduate studies at Harvard and Oxford, as well as the Sorbonne.[I]

Before the gay Jew and the Palestinian, the most influential North American literary critic was, undisputed and for 30 years, Edmund Wilson (1895-1972), who was a typical WASP. A Princeton man, he took literature seriously, combining erudition with refined taste. It was the biggest influence of his time in the United States: as he wrote assiduously for the media, and was the official literary critic of the prestigious culture magazine New Yorkers, its reach was enormous. He denounced imperialism, the Vietnam War and the Cold War, being a leading figure in the opposition in his country.

In the meantime, the winds of history had changed course and opened the discussion on ethnic and sexual diversity, while feminism emerged in the second wave. It can be said then that, although Edward W. Said and Susan Sontag had training at elite universities, their origins make them public but divergent intellectuals, or dissidents.. Not excluded, in any way, but with an inclusion that could be called problematic... And that both will know how to explore, producing a rebellious, out of square and innovative work.

In short, it is worth emphasizing that both were literary critics and literature professors who had a career at the University and participated intensely in the debates of their time, both in their courses and by publishing books and writing for newspapers and magazines. Both could be called “polymath” (a combination of much with knowledge),[ii] according to the recent book by Cambridge University cultural historian Peter Burke.

In the book justly titled The polymath, Burke examines the ideal of an intellectual in the Renaissance, one that encompassed the greatest possible range of knowledge, or disciplines, or subjects. Think of Leonardo da Vinci, who painted, drew, sculpted, designed and built devices that were precursors to the airplane, the helicopter, the battle tank, and so on, in addition to being interested in chemistry, botany, physics, medicine and anatomy etc. This ideal was gradually eroded and supplanted by that of a specialist (or expert),that focuses on a single discipline. This is the ideal of modernity.

But, says Peter Burke, with the passage of centuries the polymath is showing signs of resurrection, once again asserting himself as an ideal. And we can thus classify both Edward W. Said and Susan Sontag, who, as great specialists in literature and literary criticism, never stopped being interested in other areas of knowledge. Susan Sontag wrote novels as well as classic books on photography and illness, a field of study she practically invented.

Edward W. Said is the author of must-read works on music and orientalism, as his books, as we know, in addition to literature, cover music and visual arts, as well as sociology and history. That said, let's move on to some characteristics of the work of this professor of comparative literature at Columbia University, in New York, before focusing on his work and his personal contribution.

He highlights his dedication to music. He was a classical pianist his entire life. This extraordinary dedication resulted in an existential encounter with Daniel Baremboim, conductor and activist. In an exemplary collaboration, as being a Palestinian and a Jew they should have been overlapping, they, on the contrary, played together, recorded CDs together, were filmed in performances, etc. But the most sensational of their achievements was the joint creation of an orchestra formed by young Arabs and Israelis. The orchestra pays homage to Goethe by adopting the title of his poem “West-Eastern Divan” (“Western-Eastern Divan”). By the way, in 2002 the two received the Concordia prize, a Spanish award. It was the first of several awards that would be given not only to them, but to the orchestra, since then.[iii] And the collaboration led to the writing of a book together: Reflections on music.

Arab presence

In his works, Edward W. Said teaches us about the Arab presence in the West. It's something we didn't learn at school: that the city of Córdoba in Spain was one of the lighthouses of the planet in the Middle Ages and certainly the European capital of science and knowledge. The Arabs occupied part of Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, for 800 years. And there they took their splendid civilization – until they were expelled in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella of Castile and Fernando of Aragon, at the end of a long war.

In Andalusia, in southern Spain, the Moors (or “Saracens”, as they were also called) built cities covered in sumptuous palaces, called Alcázar (Al Ksar = fortress), and mosques decorated with arabesques. And, people of the desert with a veneration for water, dream gardens with large hydraulic works such as irrigation canals, fountains, cisterns, fountains, lakes and swimming pools. They planted the streets of these cities with orange trees, painting them with green bushes full of golden apples. They developed agriculture and introduced countless basic foods, such as oranges and lemons. And they also brought sugar cane, other fruits such as pomegranates and peaches, which come from Persia as the name suggests. They were experts in water management, the knowledge they brought from their origins.

All of this can be seen to this day in the cities of Andalusia: by rare luck, these clearly Arab cities in their layout were spared and not razed to the ground by the invader, as usual. Ask what state Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan are in after the United States went there.

In Andalusia, the cities of Granada shine, with the famous group of palaces and gardens of the Alhambra, and Seville, with other wonders, such as the royal palace known to this day as the Alcázar, typically Arabic. And Córdoba, where there is a beautiful mosque that, apparently, the conquerors did not have the courage to demolish, such is its beauty and grandeur, as it was the largest in the world in its time. They preferred to build a Catholic church around it, as if protecting it in a vault.

Córdoba became a center for studies and research in science and arts – among these, mainly music and calligraphy. Wise men and scholars from all over the world flocked to her. At the time, the other centers were Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, and Damascus, the capital of Syria. It was home to a prestigious University and an immense library, an environment conducive to the development of medicine, in which the biggest name is Averroes.

Averroes of Cordoba, to speak fairly, was preceded by the great Avicenna of Iran, or Persia.

This is another wise polymath, but from the 10th-11th centuries, that is, a hundred years before Averroes. A disciple of the Ancient Greeks, especially Aristotle and Hippocrates, he was a doctor and wrote treatises on philosophy, astronomy, geometry and algebra, music – and many more in other areas. He is considered the Father of modern Medicine. His two treatises – The book of healing e The canon of medicine – they would be adopted in future European medieval universities, including that of Paris. Avicenna had access to the magnificent libraries of Iran or Persia, of which in the Middle Ages there were at least six, in six different cities.

Averrois de Córdoba, a century later, would be a commentator on Aristotle and the main mediator of Greek philosophy studies for the University of Paris. Around this time, Aristotle would be translated into Latin and Hebrew.

Córdoba was famous, like all of Andalusia, for its tolerance: Arabs, Jews and Christians lived together peacefully, protected by the laws. What ended when the Arabs were expelled, and soon after the Jews. They left behind a culture that only flourished in that territory, the Mozarabic culture which, as the name suggests, was a mixture of population groups.

A word in defense of a Christian prelate, Cardinal Cisneros, Primate of Spain and confessor of Isabella of Castile, to whom we owe the survival of Mozarabic sacred music and especially its liturgical singing. In 1492, when the Arabs were expelled, Cardinal Cisneros ordered the music of the churches to be compiled and copied. He sensed that this great art, about to be banned along with the liturgy decreed heretical, would disappear in the brutality of genocidal destruction.

Today it is possible to attend beautiful and original concerts, thanks to the foresight of Cardinal Cisneros. It was his company to publish a polyglot Bible in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic. Aside from his political influence, he was a true spirit of the Renaissance and stood out for his achievements in the cultural field.

The last of the metropolises to fall was Granada, the wonderful Granada, a legend was forged about the farewells that Sultan Boabdil, standing at a viewpoint on the road, said to his beloved kingdom. To this day, this moment is considered the death knell of Arab civilization in Europe. A poem by Fernando Pessoa celebrates Boabdil's goodbye,[iv] fixing “his mere last look… at the left figure of Granada”, showing how much the move mattered to the European imagination.

A masterpiece

One immediately notices that Edward W. Said takes impetus in literature to take flight and make beautiful reflections on culture, politics and civilization. But the basis is literary criticism, his profession, after all.

Among his books, the masterpiece is orientalism, which would become one of the pillars of post-colonial and decolonization studies. And whose reading disorganizes the universe of knowledge of those who thought they already knew. In its erudition, ambition and scope it brings to mind the German stylistics of the 1930s and 1940s, when books of literary criticism were encyclopedic treatises or monuments of civilization.

I remember here some works by polymaths. As mimesis, by Auerbach, which systematically covers all Western literature, starting with the Bible and Homer, and ending with Proust and Virginia Woolf. Or else European literature and the Latin Middle Ages, by ER Curtius, who studies the topos that come and go in literary works throughout the millennia, from Latin to vernacular languages. Or even the scope of the works of Leo Spitzer, gathered in Style studies. Another example, from a tradition other than German Stylistics: the Russian Bakhtin's book on carnivalization, carried out by the populace in the public square, recovers for literature vast panels of discursive practices based on orality.

Or, outside of literature, in the visual arts, the works of Aby Warburg and his Mnemosyne Atlas, which will identify the main images (the nymph, the draping and draping, the serpent, etc.) in circulation from Antiquity to the present. And also the book by the Swiss Jakob Burckhardt, The civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. He is reputed to have “invented” the Renaissance with his evocations and power of synthesis. And a few others.

This is by far Edward W. Said's main book. But he wrote many of them, bringing together essays on literary and cultural criticism, on politics, on music. Culture and imperialism is a kind of continuation of orientalism, prolonging reflection on several of its themes; Culture and politics brings newspaper articles by this militant of the Palestinian cause; and a few more, including Reflections on exile, The Palestinian question; The pen and the sword (interviews).

Among them, the most important is, there is no denying it, Orientalism – both in erudition and in the originality of thought. The book became a bestseller, which surprised both the author and the publishing house. It would soon be translated into 50 languages ​​and discussed around the world. And it would give rise to postcolonial and decolonization studies. In its 500 pages, it is a true treatise, countercurrent to the trend towards specialization. It is the work of a polymath.

What was so original?

We could say that among us today, the idea that while our European ancestors wore loincloths, were illiterate and painted their faces blue, the Arabs already had a great civilization is still not well accepted. This civilization built cities of mosaic and porcelain, adorned with flowering and perfumed gardens, practiced hydraulic engineering, was very advanced in astronomy and mathematics, and had invented writing and the alphabet. And it incorporated zero, an invention of the Hindus and also of the Mayans, which allowed an unprecedented advance in algebra and geometry. The knowledge learned at school teaches that it was the Arabs who preserved, studied and transmitted texts from Greek Antiquity to the West, such as, for example, the works of Aristotle. In other words: they were a civilization! And they were direct heirs of the great civilizations of Antiquity that prospered in the Fertile Crescent. Even by geography and language, they were heirs of the Assyrians and Babylonians, the Sumerians, the Hittites, the Persians, the Egyptians...

Edward W. Said came to show how the West, in search of identity, carried out a slow construction in which it promoted itself as a beacon of civilization. For this, I needed an Other, that is, another who was barbaric and savage as a contrast. For us today, the East is the “cradle of terrorists” – it is from there that jihad, Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, the Islamic State, Hezbollah, Hamas come from. And for this Other they chose the Arabs. The subtitle of orientalism is significant: “The East as an invention of the West”.

Examining high culture since Antiquity, it is this time-consuming work of centuries that Edward W. Said discovers. The greatest thinkers, philosophers and men of letters in the West, including poets and novelists, contributed to this. Contrary to what we might think, it was not the work of brute and rude people.

When studying imperialism and colonialism, Said, examining the sphere of culture and, therefore, the symbolic, ends up focusing on political implications. To draw a parallel with Brazil: we learned at school that the mission of the conquering Portuguese was to civilize the Indians, to achieve this it was necessary to catechize them and convert them to the Christian religion. And dress them too, teach them that instead of going naked, as was rational in the tropics (and that's all over the world, not just here), they should wrap themselves in layers and layers of clothes, as if it were snowing. .

There is a lightning poem by Oswald de Andrade, mocking this contradiction, which is a prime perspective on decolonization:

Portuguese error

When the Portuguese arrived
Under heavy rain
Dressed the Indian. What a shame!
If it was a sunny day
The Indian had undressed the Portuguese [v]

The poem explores colloquial spontaneity, contrasting it with the sophistication of the invoice. The verbs dress/undress focus the destructive confrontation between two cultures with a light hand, as if only the climate decided the colonizer's power to oppress the colonized. The jocular tone camouflages the thorny racial issue, a burning controversy at the time. And the word “penalty”, used in two different senses, concrete and abstract, ends the issue with economy of means.

Gilberto Freyre had a lot of fun with this topic, in Big house & slave quarters. He is the one who praises our habit of daily bathing, which we inherited from the Indians and enslaved Africans, and chastises Europeans for only bathing once a year, at the time.

This, regarding post-colonial studies, of which Edward W. Said was one of the inventors and luminaries. Then came decolonization studies, which are expanding now.

About the works of the threshold

A good example of our author's method, showing how he starts from the literary work and expands the circle of exegesis, absorbing other arts, it is Late style (On late style), development of classes given at Columbia University. There he analyzes Thomas Mann, Jean Genet, Tommaso di Lampedusa, Kavafis, Samuel Becket, Aeschylus, Euripides. It can already be seen that the choice is fine... But, by showing his method, he expands the scope, overflowing literature and magnetizing other arts, showing how culture contaminates itself and grows.

The reader benefits from texts about non-writers, such as composers Richard Strauss, Beethoven, Schönberg and Mozart, filmmaker Luchino Visconti and famous pianist Glenn Gould. The latter is particularly notable for having made two recordings ofThe Goldberg Variations, by Bach, separated by almost 30 years, in 1955 and 1981 – and you can imagine the whirlwind of controversies it aroused.

Edward W. Said's originality lies in expanding and extending the concept of “late style”, created by the Russian Mikhail Bakhtin and developed by Theodor W. Adorno, to deal not only with literature, but also with music and cinema. Bakhtin develops the concept in his books about the universality of the mood of the people, or, as he says, of the public square. And especially in two of his most widespread books: Popular culture in the Middle Ages, where he launches the concept of “carnivalization”, and Problems of Dostoevsky's poetics, dedicated to another key concept, that of “polyphony”. Both concepts became widespread and were widely used and even abused.

Mikhail Bakhtin does not speak of late style but rather of “works of the threshold”, that threshold that is the passage from life to death. The person who calls it “late style” is Theodor Adorno. According to them, there are specific characteristics common to the works that novelists and poets wrote at an advanced age, when they were already left to reflect on their own death. See Machado de Assis who, when writing Aires Memorial, published in the year of his death (1908), gives vent to this closeness, this kind of familiarity with meditation on finitude.

A short poem by Manuel Bandeira in a “threshold” situation, as Bakhtin says, or “late style” as Adorno says, is based precisely on Machado de Assis. The first verse of the poem alludes by antonomasia to the short story “The Desire of People”, now “The Desire of People”. In a beautiful metaphor, it is a synthetic and symbolic way of saying that no one wants to die, that death is a fatality of the human condition. If what Machado de Assis' people wanted was the most beautiful girl in Rio de Janeiro, what Manuel Bandeira's people wanted was obviously death:


When people's unwanted arrives
(I don't know if it's hard or expensive),
Maybe I'm afraid,
Maybe smile, or say:
Hello, inescapable!
My day was good, the night may come.
(The night with its spells)
You will find the field plowed, the house clean,
The table set
With everything in its place. [vi]

This apparently simple poem, in its slow prose cadence, progressively acquires biblical tones, both in tempo and in the allusions to a domestic and bucolic life. Already referred to by the title, an atmosphere of supper, or even Holy Communion, is established. But the poem appears in a book from 1930 and the poet would only die in 1968, that is, almost 40 years later. What threshold or late style, then, is this?

Expanding the concept, it is necessary to remember that Manuel Bandeira was attacked by tuberculosis in his youth and was undergoing treatment in a sanatorium in Switzerland, where he wrote his first poems. Familiarity with death, therefore, was commonplace for the poet, who committed himself to surviving the disease for so many years.

Edward W. Said selects for analysis authors who fight with death, who confront the inexorable with revolt. In short, they do not receive it with the “supernatural serenity” that he finds in Sophocles’ latest creations (Oedipus at Colona) or Shakespeare (The storm). Here we can add Manuel Bandeira’s poem (“Consoada”). It is the opposite traits, of nonconformity and insubmission, that the critic will look for.

Basically, it is a conflict with time – which runs away and, like an hourglass, is coming to an end for the subject. The subject ends but time continues... hence the revolt against destiny. Hence a convulsive work, torn apart by contradictions, nothing placated or appeased. In the midst of exile and silence, the incongruous, the exasperated and finally the tragic – although also the jocular – predominate. In a word, late is a problematic style.

Of course, works (and authors) that exude conflict are more aesthetically interesting, and it is to them that Said will dedicate himself. Note the greatness of them all: there is no artist of lesser stature on this list.

Starting with Thomas Mann: the novel Death in Venice, which is perfection, it has already caused rivers of ink to flow. His argument is simple: an eminent writer (whom Visconti will transform into a musician, in fact, composer and conductor) suffers a creative crisis, feels sterile, is no longer able to create, and this in middle age. He tries to change things up and goes to Venice on vacation.

Venice is already tremendously symbolic, on the one hand because by tradition it is a utopia for those who come from cold lands like Germany. place of the sun, of hot blood, of permissiveness, of music – and on the other hand, the place of decadence. The city itself is decadent, in ruins and threatened with sinking into the waters. It is also the meeting point between West and East, a frontier of civilizations, in short. Choosing Venice implies all of this.

And there the protagonist, who was married and had children, suddenly falls in love with a beautiful 15-year-old teenager, who he only sees from a distance. This unexpected passion (confusion of the individual) meets with the arrival of the plague, cholera, which comes from the East (confusion of the world). And the two evils, or the two disconcerts, take possession of the protagonist and drag him to degradation and death.

A footnote: Edward W. Said only mentions in passing that Thomas Mann was neither old nor close to death and would still live some 40 years after writing Death in Venice. But, carried away by his enthusiasm, and also by the subject of the novel (it is the protagonist who is on the threshold of death), he let the anachronism pass.

Thomas Mann will open up the opportunity for Edward W. Said to speak not only about literature, but also about cinema and music. So, by focusing on Death in Venice, Leaving the entire voluminous work of the German author in parentheses, he will also call for discussion Visconti's film and Benjamin Britten's opera. The same hermeneutical strategy will be repeated in the study of The leopard, which first is Lampedusa's novel and later Visconti's film – both works of art of formidable size.

Right from the start, Edward W. Said introduces us to both Lampedusa and Visconti. Both are aristocrats by birth, Lampedusa from Sicilia and Visconti from Milan, to the north. We already know that this implies putting someone on the scene from the developed and rich north, the other from the underdeveloped and poor south. Even the southern aristocracy is a second-rate aristocracy,

A pair that we could call incongruous then enters the argument: Gramsci and Proust. But the person who brought these two into the discussion was not Said, before him Visconti had already declared that Gramsci's work on the fracture of the Italian nation between north and south, entitled The southern question, it had been his bedside book during filming. As for Proust, to our loss it was one of the projects in preparation when the filmmaker passed away.

With Gramsci at hand, therefore, Visconti had set out to portray the Sicilian aristocracy, more crude, more second-class. This had not even produced the splendor of a courtly culture that could withstand comparison with that of the North.

Visconti, as we know, is a complex figure. One of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived, capable of combining masterpiece with masterpiece, he was at the same time a count by birth (from the Visconti of Milan, who came from the Renaissance), communist-Marxist and homosexual. Explosive mix, right? Today he is perhaps best remembered for the magnificent films dedicated to the theme of decadence, in which he worked hard in the second part of his life. Which? Outside Death in Venice, also Ludwig, The Damned Gods, Violence and Passion etc.

Edward W. Said establishes thought-provoking comparisons between the book and the film. Interestingly, Lampedusa had an obscure life and died without getting her book published, which would happen a year later: she only received rejections from different publishers. But the book was a bestseller immediate worldwide, just like the film. Then, Said makes some observations about the following detail, which no one had thought of: that two works – book and film – dedicated to representing the aristocracy were made in non-aristocratic media. In other words: in the novel, a creation of the bourgeoisie, and in the film, an industrial creation of the mass society. But the question remains open…

Late style ends up arriving at Greek, or Attic, tragedy, with an analysis of Euripides, especially of The bacchantes and Iphigenia in Áulis, complemented by the oresteia, Aeschylus' trilogy that encompasses The Coephoras, Agamemnon and The Eumenides.

As always, Edward W. Said surprises us, and not only sees the late style in the relationship between the author and the work, but, in a remarkable move of critical daring, in the fact that Euripides is the last of the tragedians: when he writes, the tragedy is dying. So, it is not only the author who approaches death, but the literary genre of tragedy itself – one of the most glorious in the history of humanity – that foresees its own end. One of these tragedies of agony of the genre takes the inventor of tragedy and theater as its protagonist – he, the god Dionysus. The bacchantes explains what the price of resisting the god is.

As everyone knows, the trilogy oresteia Aeschylus narrates nothing less than the creation of democracy. And the material of the three tragedies is derived, as usual in Attic tragedy, from the mythology of the Greek peoples. This is where the central narrative lines come from:

On the horizon, as always, the Trojan War. The leader of the coalition of invading Greek kings, Agamemnon, has his fleet of a thousand ships stranded by a calm. When consulted, the oracle tells him that the winds will fill the sails again under one condition: the sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia. This horror is accepted by Agamemnon, who immolates his daughter. The girl's queen and mother, Clytemnestra, swears revenge.

Ten years later, when the war ends, Agamemnon returns to his kingdom in Mycenae and is killed by the queen, in collusion with Aegisthus, who had ruled the kingdom in the king's absence. Seeing the risk he was running, his son and heir Orestes fled, fearing that he would be murdered so that the king's race would be annihilated and the usurper's race would occupy the throne.

The daughter Electra, who breathes revenge, receives Orestes when he returns incognito, and both plot, and then carry it out, the murder of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. But something remains pending: matricide is the worst of crimes, and the Furies of Hell demand retaliation for the mother's blood spilled by her son.

This is where the novelty comes in, a remarkable feat by Aeschylus. It is then decided that Orestes will be tried by a court – and this is the origin myth of the first court in history. It starts with an odd number of jurors, to avoid a tie, in which case the president of the court, the goddess Pallas Athena herself, patron of the polis, will break the tie. To this day, we call this tie-breaking vote “Minerva’s vote”, according to the goddess’s Roman name.

The votes are tied: half to free Orestes from the archaic right that prohibited his son from shedding his mother's blood, half to condemn him. Pallas Athena enters the scene, who votes for acquittal. It is not just the liberation of Orestes, it is the defeat of the archaic rights of women (Furies, Clytemnestra) and the institution of the law of the polis, the law of men, democracy in short. Only the slaughtered mother remains unjustly treated, while the Furies are appeased and, in compensation for the revenge they did not obtain, they are transformed from Erinias into Eumenides: they are tamed, tamed, civilized by force. It is clear that this larger conflict has not been resolved.

At the same time, we have the institution of the law of the polis and democracy, the work of the patriarchal oligarchy, something that we celebrate as a great advance in civilization – but which is triply exclusionary. Women, slaves and foreigners – who do not have the right to citizenship – are left out. And that is a Greek legacy.

A life

It is also recommended to read the very interesting autobiography of Edward W. Said, Out of place. There we followed more closely his commitment to the Palestinian cause, which made him a public figure. He was a member of the Palestinian People's Council at the time of the Oslo peace accords in 1993, signed by Yasser Arafat, from the PLO or Palestine Liberation Organization, and the president of the State of Israel. The agreement left him so unhappy that he resigned from the Council, thinking that the Palestinian cause had been betrayed and handed over to his enemies. And, in fact, today, given the state of the conflict in Israel, we see that he was right. And we cannot help but understand his definitive departure from the Council, which was certainly controversial and much discussed at the time.

These are the dangers that await a fearless intellectual, who took and faced risks, and numerous, as he says in his autobiography. A knight of two civilizations, Edward W. Said operated in a critical register that the dominance of both made possible.

We owe him a vast reflection on the position of the intellectual in the present, when he must entrench himself in resistance to empire and racism, but trying to preserve for himself a certain degree of marginality, or a skewed distance in relation to the hegemonic current of culture. The author did not shy away from meditating on himself and his circumstances, imbuing theory with experience.

In this aspect, it provides an analysis of the “crisis of representation” in the human sciences, which recently discovered themselves as partners of colonial expansion. When approaching 20th century nationalism, he highlighted its correlation with the forced migrations of human masses, the loss of roots being able to give rise to a contrary movement, external or internal, sometimes both. Thus, our time is characterized by the multiplication of displaced people, refugees, banished people. And he ended up placing the expatriate condition at the heart of modernity.

With this, Edward W. Said's works elevate him to the position of one of the most influential thinkers on the political implications of culture in our time.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue). [amzn.to/3ZboOZj]


[I] Alice Kaplan, Dreaming in French: The Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis (2013), Chicago: University of Chicago Press. On different dates, the three eminent women spent a year of “finishing school” in Paris, after graduating from higher education.

[ii] Petse Burke, The polymath – A cultural history from Leonardo da Vinci to Susan Sontag. São Paulo, Unesp, 2020.

[iii] For anyone interested, there are concerts by this orchestra on YouTube

[iv] Fernando Pessoa, untitled poem, Incipit – “I come from far away and bring it to my profile…”, Poems (1942)

[v] Oswald de Andrade, “Portuguese Error”, Student Oswald de Andrade's first poetry notebook (1927)

[vi] Manuel Bandeira, “Consoada”, Licentiousness (1930)

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  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table