Edward Said, prose

Struck by Edward Said’s cool mastery of prose, in essays on the Arab novel in Reflections on Exile here, or writing biographical reminiscences of 1940-1950s Cairo. The confidence, the grace, the ease. Elegance. Conversation de salon effect, pieces conceived for literary magazines, free ranging outside of academic discipline. But that confidence. I allow myself to fantasize : from a substantial practice and professional sanction of literary scholarship, academic proof of oneself, experience built up, a solid bolster of progressive achievement. The just-slight irritation at the settledness of it.

The « literary » character, of course, as evidenced as ever, with the conclusions and horizons high-minding over humane, humanism, – in substitution, for instance, to national identities and pressures : this is about Ahdaf Soueif, in peroration to « Anglo-Arab Encounter », and clear in its limitations. I wouldn’t wish, etc.

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