Timothy Brennan in “The Life of Edward Said”: Paths and Positions in Literature, Politics, Sociology and Philosophy

Perhaps the best man who can perpetuate the memory of a great thinker, who had an effective impact on his people and on peoples concerned about the fate of that people, is one of his students who drew their knowledge from him. and loved him as a human being at the same time.
This is what applies to a recently published book, Locations of the Mind: The Life of Edward Said, written by Timothy Brennan, one of Said’s students, who is currently lecturing in the arts and humanities at the University of Minnesota in the United States and has many books in the field.
Brennan’s book, which delves into his research and study of Said’s work on the Palestinian cause and presents Said’s attitudes towards the theories and ideas of other thinkers in the literature, politics, sociology and philosophy of those who at the same time or those that precedes it in that space and is influenced by them negatively or positively, can be considered a model in this field.
According to this book, Saed’s active involvement in Palestine began in the early 1970s when he visited Lebanon on an academic trip as a visiting professor and at the beginning of his married life with his second wife, Maryam Kartas, in 1970. which belongs to a Lebanese family struggling intellectually, socially and politically. In Beirut, Saeed became acquainted with a number of senior leaders of the Palestinian revolution through his friend, Shafiq al-Hout, an official with the Palestine Liberation Organization there. Among them, Saeed met with Minister Khalil “Abu Jihad”, Salah Khalaf “Abu Iyad”, Kamal Nasser and others before his very important meeting with Yasser Arafat “Abu Ammar” on the occasion of Arafat’s visit to the Headquarters of the Nations United General. The Assembly in New York and his famous speech in 1974.
Brennan says Saeed’s friend, who was close to him personally and intellectually at that stage, was the late Syrian thinker Sadiq al-Azm, with whom he attended meetings of great Palestinian leaders and tried persuade them to develop their own leadership structure. work and intellectual orientations (p. 132). However, a controversy ensued after the publication of Said’s book “Orientalism”, Said’s most famous book, and after Sadiq al-Azm’s criticism of Karl Marx’s inclusion by Said among negative orientalists, which led to a backlash. violent by Said which took place in sharp debate and exchange of views that reached extreme limits and led to their divergence without return.p.199 and 200).
It is worth noting that Saeed (according to the book) had given a lengthy interview with Kamal Nasser shortly before Nasser was martyred at the hands of an Israeli military faction led by Ehud Barak who penetrated the streets of Beirut across the sea and reached Verdun. area in Ras Beirut, where he killed Nasser, Kamal Adwan and Abu Youssef Al-Najjar on April 10, 1973.
In this book, Brennan tries to focus on the important role that Edward Said achieved as advisor to the leader, Yasser Arafat, after his effective contribution to the review of Arafat’s speech before the General Assembly. The olive is in another hand. , and he added other important passages. After Arafat was positively influenced by Saeed’s contribution in that case, the latter moved from the role of advisor to one of the pillars of leadership and began to establish contacts to ensure communication between Palestinian leaders and voices heard in America among intellectuals. up. , academics and heads of research institutions heard from politicians and media professionals (p. 147). Saeed’s visits to Beirut were also repeated, where he met with Arafat and the Palestinian leaders, and the relationship between him and Arafat and the leaders remained strong until the signing of the “Oslo Accords”, which Saeed vehemently opposed and considered that from their release. , that they will contribute to the preparation for the normalization of the Arab countries with Israel and will not achieve the dual state project that they promised to realize.
Here, Brennan explains what Said and his allies meant in condemning the Oslo Accords and calling for a single Palestinian state.
Brennan says on page (316) of the book that Said and Noam Chomsky considered that any two-state project should be handled with care to achieve a one-state project, rather than one that is hastily imposed on hasty agreements that are difficult to achieve. be implemented, as was later the case with the Oslo Accords which were imposed hastily and without revision. It was then used to infiltrate Palestinian lands from Israeli settlements and turn them into islands separated from each other. . Thus, Seidi was predicting with his foresight the seriousness of what happened later and what is happening now and his expectations were met.
But, says Brennan, Saeed (as usual) was cut in his attitudes, even about the people and entities he was close to, but they took a different path from what he believed was the right path. This led to President Arafat’s anger against him and prevented the spread of his books and intellectual productions in the West Bank and Gaza (p. 320). Some parties also accused him of treason, especially when he criticized the adoption of car bombs and other means of resistance leading to the killing of some innocent people, despite his support for defensive violence in other areas. Of course, Israeli extremist parties took advantage of Saeed’s disagreement with Arafat and reinforced this trend in their own media and in the international media that supports them.
In one of the last stages of Saeed’s life before his death from cancer, he went, according to what is mentioned in the book, accompanied by his friend, the writer Fawaz Traboulsi, to southern Lebanon after his liberation from occupation and they visited the prison camp of the liberated city of Khiam, where Saeed threw a small room towards the fence separating Lebanese lands and the lands of the Israeli entity was accused of being anti-Semitic and that it did not recognize the existence of Israel and was boycotted by academics. organs and publications in America and Europe under the pretext of inciting terrorism.
As for the worst things, according to Brennan, in the last stage of Saeed’s life, was the handful of some thinkers who claimed to be close to him and his ideas, including the British writer Christopher Hitchens, who according to the author was turned into a promoter of American politics in the world and who misunderstood the book “Orientalism” and claimed that it leads to a conflict of Western and Eastern civilizations, while Saeed’s intention was not in Brennan’s view to wedge between the values ​​of West and East, nor to integrate all Orientalists into one basket, but rather the opposite, knowing that Seedi was not negative about the criticisms leveled at him by respected thinkers who referred to him from some notes on the book “Orientalism as a French thinker. Maxime Rodinson.
In this review, the focus is on what Brennan wrote about Said’s political views, but the author also testified that he was involved in his teacher’s intellectual, literary, and critical positions.
Brennan does not hesitate to point out that Saeed’s personality as a young student in the early stages of his life expressed the background of the financially comfortable family in which he grew up, so he focused on his appearance and accuracy in his elections. of consumables like his cars and what he smokes and that Saeed criticized himself for this issue at the end of his life.
Brennan talks about Saeed’s relationship with his mother, father, brothers, his first wife and the women who were emotionally attached to him, noting that his mother, Hilda, played a key role in influencing his choices in this field and that. she on more than one occasion pushed him in his youth to abandon some emotional relationships with girls because she did not find that the girl he was dating here or there was at his intellectual and social level.
But Brennan considers that Said’s second wife, Maryam Qirtas, was the strongest and most loyal companion of Eduard Said, who remained firmly attached to her relationship with him and held his hand until her last breath. He also criticizes one of the Lebanese women with whom Said was associated in the mid-1990s and who used her romantic relationship with him to promote herself after his death. She was and works in the field of writing and publishing.
It is also worth mentioning in the book Brennan’s realization of the nature of Said’s intellectual and personal relationship with two of the great thinkers of the American University of Beirut and who held prominent international political and intellectual positions, namely Dr. Charles Malek and Constantine Zureik. .
Saeed’s relationship with Malik, according to Brennan, was a relationship of admiration and hatred at the same time. Malik, who held senior positions at the United Nations and contributed to the writing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and became Lebanon’s foreign minister, was one of the most prominent philosophers in the Middle East, but he was also regarding his Christian affiliation at the expense of some of his positions in relation to other religions. Malik, and because of the family relationship between his wife and Saeed’s mother, contributed to supporting Edward’s entry into the most prestigious universities and had dialogue with him on the most important issues, but Saeed hated his views on Arab affairs. and Islamic and saw it in Constantine. Zureik the other side of the devoted Arab thinker. But these two intellectual giants, as well as a number of professors at the American University of Beirut, set up a dividing line between Saed and his entry as a full professor at that university for their own reasons. Others also placed an impenetrable barrier to his entry on the board of directors of the Institute for Palestinian Studies in Beirut at one stage.
Brennan wonders if behind these barriers are hidden political motives, personal factors or both.
Unfortunately, most of the attempts to keep Saeed “out of the country,” according to the title of his memoirs, continued even after his death. He was not buried in Palestine, Jerusalem, where he was born, nor in the Lebanese city of Dahour al-Shwer, where he spent his youth and happy emotional and family relationships, but was buried in a Quakers cemetery in Broumana, the birthplace of the Carthage family and the place of belonging to the family of his wife, Maryam Carthage.
The writer may see that this Lebanese cemetery does not rise to the level of intellectual, political and humanitarian Edward Said, but those who know Saeed as a person who loves tennis, music and life in general, may disagree with him, as Broumana can be one. of the cities closest to his personality, overlooking Palestine, through its geographical location is in the upper part of the Lebanese Metn region, with a window to the Mediterranean Sea, even from afar.He and his proximity have always been a venue for major tennis tournaments and artistic and musical events that were an important part of Edward’s life.

Timothy Brennan: “Places of the Mind; A Life of Edward Said »
Bloomsbury, London 2022
437 pages.

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