23 August 2010

Edward Said

Last two paragraphs of Michael Wood's obituary, full text here.

...Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. Edward liked to quote Gramsci’s aphorism, and with good reason. But he wasn’t a pessimist of any kind, either of the intellect or the will. He was the deepest, most devoted, most unalterable kind of optimist, the optimist who can look despair in the face and keep on hoping. I remember a long argument we had at the time of the signing of the Oslo Accords. The thing went on for about four hours, Edward pacing up and down in his apartment drinking glass after glass of orange juice. I was looking for hope but looking in the wrong place. In the end, I said: ‘But Edward, you’ve got to believe that some day, somehow, things are going to get better.’ He looked at me as if I was mad, and said: ‘Of course I believe that. If I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be doing any of this.’

I’ve thought of this exchange often as the days have become even darker in Palestine and Israel, and I have come to understand what it means to be an optimist, and what an imperishable optimism looks like. I thought I was an optimist, but I’m just a utopian. Edward was an optimist. A few days before he died he called to talk a little – he had come back from the edge of death, and knew he had, but none of us knew how close the end was – and although rather hoarse and weak in voice, sounded very much like himself, making jokes, insatiably curious and full of spirit. I said: ‘Edward, you’re invincible.’ He said: ‘I’m not invincible, but I’m not giving up.’

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