Out of Place: A Memoir

Out of Place: A Memoir

by Edward W. Said
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Overview

Out of Place: A Memoir by Edward W. Said

From one of the most important intellectuals of our time comes an extraordinary story of exile and a celebration of an irrecoverable past. A fatal medical diagnosis in 1991 convinced Edward Said that he should leave a record of where he was born and spent his childhood, and so with this memoir he rediscovers the lost Arab world of his early years in Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt.

Said writes with great passion and wit about his family and his friends from his birthplace in Jerusalem, schools in Cairo, and summers in the mountains above Beirut, to boarding school and college in the United States, revealing an unimaginable world of rich, colorful characters and exotic eastern landscapes. Underscoring all is the confusion of identity the young Said experienced as he came to terms with the dissonance of being an American citizen, a Christian and a Palestinian, and, ultimately, an outsider. Richly detailed, moving, often profound, Out of Place depicts a young man's coming of age and the genesis of a great modern thinker.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679730675
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/2000
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 305,790
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Edward W. Said was born in 1935 in Jerusalem, raised in Jerusalem and Cairo, and educated in the United States, where he attended Princeton (B.A. 1957) and Harvard (M.A. 1960; Ph.D. 1964). In 1963, he began teaching at Columbia University, where he was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature. He died in 2003 in New York City.

He is the author of twenty-two books which have been translated into 35 languages, including Orientalism (1978); The Question of Palestine (1979); Covering Islam (1980); The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983); Culture and Imperialism (1993); Peace and Its Discontents: Essays on Palestine and the Middle East Peace Process (1996); and Out of Place: A Memoir (1999). Besides his academic work, he wrote a twice-monthly column for Al-Hayat and Al-Ahram; was a regular contributor to newspapers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; and was the music critic for The Nation.

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Out of Place 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this memoir/autobiography really interesting and colorful, but not quite fulfilling. For sure it didn't quite have that Said caliber that you'll find in his scholarly works. Also, it's really repetitive, especially in terms of his relationships with either parent. A lot of the historical issues seem vague and insincere too. Like the way he says he doesn't know why his family chose to go to Jerusalem for him to be born... or the way he shrugs at the fact that his mother's Lebanese passport said her birthplace was Cairo instead of Nazareth. On the whole, I'm glad I read it, and I DO recommend it, but I definitely wouldn't call it a great work by any stretch at all.
Subway_Reader More than 1 year ago
What a waste--Out of Place, what could have been a fascinating account of a childhood spent torn between worlds, turned out to be a dry, repetitious, disjointed grind through a life of vapid privilege. Edward Said might have turned out to be an original thinker in analyzing the conflict and interplay between European and indigenous cultures and a champion of the Palestinians, but none of that comes through in his rote description of his life through his twenties. People come and go in endless succession, being granted a line or at best a paragraph; virtually the only people given three dimensions are his mother and father. Even his siblings are given short shrift. We get little more than their names. His first wife doesn't even rate that, appearing out of nowhere and disappearing just as suddenly. What is most astonishing is that Said is jaw-droppingly oblivious to privilege and class. He had to have known, even as a child, that he was living a life far more Westernized and privileged than the overwhelming majority of people in Cairo, Jerusalem, Lebanon, and more comfortable even than most people in America, yet people outside of his wealthy bubbles are virtually not mentioned. If Said made any attempt to mingle with the less than rich Egyptians, Lebanese, or Americans (or Palestinians, for that matter) we never hear of it. The comparisons to Proust in terms of his writing are undeserved. His prose is merely descriptive, utterly lacking in the barbed humor of memoirs like Mary Karr's The Liar's Club, Said Sayrafiezadeh's When Skateboards Will Be Free, or Helene Stapinski's Five Finger Discount, or the quiet dignity of Cheri Register's Packinghouse Daughter. (Said doesn't have the energy to even name the chapters, they're merely numbered, and pointlessly so, since they don't seem to be divided according to portions of his life.) He doesn't give the background sweep of Pablo Neruda's memoirs, or the moving account of someone really experiencing being out of place in Leo Spitzer's Hotel Bolivia, his wrenching account of being moved from Vienna to La Paz to escape the Nazis. If someone British growing up in Egypt had written the same account as Said of a privileged upbringing in private schools, Ivy League colleges and travel, with long whiny sections over his problems with his parents, it would have been dismissed--rightly so--as oblivious and elitist. Are we supposed to ignore that because of his Arab-American heritage? Ultimately he fails at telling us what it's like to be out of place, since he gives no description of the places he's supposed to be alienated from or the roots of his alienation. Anyone looking for an account of being torn between cultures or the roots of an advocate for the Palestinians will need to turn elsewhere. Coming from a land of poverty, his strongest complaint is not being picked valedictorian at his Connecticut prep school. Maybe writing this helped Said deal with his illness, but that gives us no reason to spend three hundred pages being part of his therapy.