cover image Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said

Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said

Timothy Brennan. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (464p) ISBN 978-0-374-14653-5

Brennan (Borrowed Light: Vico, Hegel, and the Colonies), professor of comparative literature at the University of Minnesota, shines a light in this meticulous account on the intertwined personal, professional, and political lives of professor and public intellectual Edward Said (1935–2003). Said’s best work, Brennan argues, emerged from his conviction that “the humanities have political consequences.” The author surveys the mentors who influenced Said’s thinking, among them “eccentric critic” R.P. Blackmur and Harry Levin (a “sociologist and economist who scandalized academia”), and the works that played a recurring role in Said’s writing, such as Georg Lukacs’s History and Class Consciousness (Said “Had been frustrated for some time that Lukacs was not widely known in the Arab world”) and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (which Said used to “expose the fundamental weakness of literary studies at the time”). A rich overview of Said’s academic career features detailed treatments of his major texts (including Beginnings, Orientalism, and The World, the Text and the Critic), and Brennan goes into detail as well on his subject’s fraught connection to the Palestine National Council, and his role as a celebrity. Brennan’s work will be invaluable reading for students of Said or the postcolonial critical movement his work sparked. Agent: Jacqueline Ko, Wylie Agency. (Mar.)