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Out of Place: A Memoir Hardcover – September 14, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0394587394 ISBN-10: 0394587391 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (September 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394587391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394587394
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Edward Said is one of the most celebrated cultural critics of the postwar world. Of his many books of literary, political, and philosophical criticism, Orientalism--a brilliant analysis of how Europe came to dominate the Orient through the creation of the myth of the exotic East--and the monumental Culture and Imperialism are the best known. His books have redefined readers' understanding of the impact of European imperialism upon the shape of modern culture. Said's career as a thinker spans literature, politics, music, philosophy, and history. As a dispossessed Palestinian growing up in the Middle East and subsequently living in the USA, he has witnessed the impact of the Second World War upon the Arab world, the dissolution of Palestine and the birth of Israel, the rise of Nasser and the PLO, the Lebanese Civil War, and the faltering peace process of the 1990s. As a result, the publication of Said's memoirs, Out of Place, is a particularly significant event. The book offers a fascinating account of the personal development of a critic and thinker who has straddled the divide between East and West, and in the process has redefined Western perceptions of the East and of the plight of Palestinian people.

However, as the title suggests, Said's memoir is a far more ambivalent and at times personally painful account of his early years in Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon, as well as the often paralyzing embrace of his loving but overbearing parents. Said's memoirs are powerfully informed by his sense of personally, geographically, and linguistically "always being out of place." Born to Christian parents and caught between expressing himself in Arabic, English, and French, he evokes a vivid, but often very unhappy, portrait of growing up in Cairo and Lebanon under the crushing weight of his emotionally intense and ambitious family. The early sections of the book paint a poignant picture of the oppressive regime established over the awkward, painfully uncertain young Edward by his loving mother and expectant, unforgiving father, both of whom cast the longest emotional shadows over the book. Those expecting an account of Said's subsequent intellectual development will be disappointed; apart from the final 50 pages, which deal with Said's education at Princeton and Harvard, Out of Place is, as Said himself says, primarily "a record of an essentially lost or forgotten world, my early life." It is this carefully disclosed record that accounts for Said's deeply ambivalent relationship with both his family and the Palestinian cause. Composed in the light of serious illness, Out of Place is an elegantly written reflection on a life that has movingly come to terms with "being not quite right and out of place." --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk

From Publishers Weekly

An influential literary critic (Culture and Imperialism, etc.), writes movingly and honestly about his life of dislocation and exile. Prompted by a diagnosis of leukemia in 1991, Said's new book is infused with a desire to document not only a life, but a time and placeAPalestine in the 1930s and '40sAthat has since vanished. Born in 1935 to a Lebanese mother and Palestinian father who had American citizenship, and raised in Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon, Said has always lived with a divided identity. Even as a child he realized that his first name was British, his last name was Arabic and his nationality was American. In a straightforward, often poetic style, Said charts his family history, his education in British and American schools and his move to the U.S. in 1951 to attend Princeton and begin what was to become a distinguished career as an academic and intellectual. The memoir's most engaging elements are the little personal details that help us understand his later work: the young Said's love of such Hollywood films as Arabian Nights, with Maria Montez, or the novels of Twain and Cooper, offer fresh insights into his later writings about orientalism. Said can be frank about his personal lifeAwhether it's learning about masturbation or his intense relationship with his mother, whom he identifies as Gertrude to his HamletAwhich gives the book moments of deep, intimate openness. In the end, this memoir is less a tidy summing-up than an acceptance and exploration of what has been. As Said says, he has "learned actually to prefer being not quite right and out of place." Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Stunning prose, unforgettably honest and beautiful.
Naomi Shihab Nye / nshihab@aol.com
It chronicles the daily life of the educated class of Palestinians in the pre 1948 era with great accuracy.
Vicken Kalbian (vkalbian@shentel.net)
Edward W. Said's "Out of Place" is one of the most moving books I've ever read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
It is extraordinary, and dismaying, that years -- years! -- after Said's personal account of his life was conclusively confirmed, we still see racist attacks on him in forums like this. Commentary's (and others') libels have been decisively debunked, yet they are still dragged up as fact. This alone should tell any reasonable observer that Said offered an insight that some found so troubling, and so sound, that they had to attack the man rather than the idea.
Don't be deceived by anti-Said, hate-filled diatribes. Said was in a rare position, one particularly unfamiliar to anyone who has grown up in Europe or the U.S. Here is a great intellectual thoroughly bound to one of the great tragedies of the 20th century. It is an exceptional tension. And Said had a uncommon ability to draw great insights from tenuously related subjects about his own experience and the common experience of people generally.
Said's writings also form a whole -- the mark of truly expansive thinker. That is, the more work of his you read -- from the most academic to the most personal -- the more his distinctive insight emerges.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Naomi Shihab Nye / nshihab@aol.com on January 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A sensitive treasure of a book, offering rare insights into the early life of one of our finest thinkers. Richly-drawn settings in Palestine, Cairo, and Lebanon, with fascinating details of school-life, friendships and the perplexing struggle of growing up in many places. A provocative journey examining complexities of exile and mysteries of families. Stunning prose, unforgettably honest and beautiful.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By "lexo-2" on October 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Edward W. Said's "Out of Place" is one of the most moving books I've ever read. The great British TV dramatist Dennis Potter said that autobiography is the most fraudulent of literary modes; he just couldn't believe that people wouldn't lie about themselves. Potter himself told a lot of embarrassing truths about himself in fictional form; Said's book is a noble reminder that some people still believe that the facts are not only worth telling but can be told.
The farcical charge that this book is a "quickie" written to pre-empt an article about Said's alleged coverup of his personal history can be easily dismissed. The article came out in "Commentary", a magazine that has never ceased to encourage Israel to become the United States' hired gun in the Middle East, thereby doing a lot to destroy Israel in the process. (Fortunately, the Israeli press are less corruptible than their American counterparts, and have never ceased to treat Said as someone whose opinion was worth listening to). And anyway, the sheer literary quality of the book belies any idea that it was dashed off in a hurry.
Said hasn't spent decades teaching literature without any sense of how to write well. He brings to life a world that is literally lost - that of pre-1948 Palestine and pre-Nasser Cairo. He describes his father's terrifying inability to take his own son seriously, while still paying tribute to the man's extraordinary genius at business. His descriptions of his relationship with his mother rival Proust. His sharp analysis of his own education is generous but never sentimental. For a book written in the shadow of its author's impending death, this is an amazingly revealing portrait of the critic as a young man.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Hani Badawi on December 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Prof. Said has indeed articulated his inner feelings and deep thoughts surrounding a crucial part of his life with an eloquence that is difficult to match. In his search for identity he revisits some of the countries he lived in and reconstructs events that have touched his life as a child and later on as a young man. In his memoir, Said takes the reader from one country to another (Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon and the USA) and shares his sincere feelings about each with an unparalleled power of expression and a deep sense of the historical, geographical, political events that shaped his thoughts. His relationship with his parents and the way he analyses his feeling towards each are weaved into his memoir with such grace that keeps the reader aware of his relationship throughout the entire book without it being at all tedious. Once you start reading Said's memoir it is difficult to put it down.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Arthur C. Hurwitz on December 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
There are three interesting aspects of this book. The first is the re-creation of the life and lifestyle of the Palestinian, make that Arab bourgeoise-a subject that even its own members try to dodge in their discussion of Arab issues. The second is the life of dysfunctional little Edward in his very dysfunctional family with his totally off-the-wall parents. Finally, is the story of how Said's identity as a man and as a critic emerged from that background. Two points should be made: One is the way he was always characterized by the-powers-that-be in his school as "dishonest" or "ingenuous" and usually for no real or tangible reason. As the student with the highest marks in his American boarding school, he was denied the title of Valevictorian for some unspecified flaws in his character. The second point is that because of these experiences, Said developed an accute sense of how people are classified, objectified, and placed into "boxes" by hegimonic systems. This is perhaps what is most revealing about this book: how character and childhood experiences form the general outlook of a human being and how a human being who gets to be a critic can develop these ideas in the most sophisticated of manners and then bring them in or inflict them on the world. I feel sorry for Said the child but wonder what his fate would have been if her were in more ordinary socioeconomic circumstances, let us say, American Middle Class. I symptathize with his character predictiments, and whatever flaws he has in that realm are no worse than those of others in academia.
In one section of the book, he describes his impressions of an American school after being in a British one. His way of looking at students and society in an American school are dead on accurate and dead on fatal. I liked that part of the book the most. I wish he would write a whole book of criticism on the society and system of an American high school.
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