Letter from the editor
The death of Edward Said on 25 September 2003 was a cruel blow to all of us at Al-Ahram Weekly, the newspaper he chose to be the platform for the publication of his articles from the first day that he began writing regularly for the press (9 September 1993) until his very last article (21 August 2003). Two years after his death, Edward Said is sorely missed, as are his contributions to the paper, by the Weekly 's editors and readers alike.
In choosing to commemorate the anniversary of Edward Said's birth in this issue of the Cairo Review of Books, we are reaffirming our faith that his ideas and work will live on and in grateful recognition of our having had the privilege of his support for our newspaper since its earliest years. In this commemorative issue, we have the pleasure to reproduce the text of the first Edward W Said Memorial Lecture, which from this year on will be delivered annually in Cairo on 1 November, Said's birthday. The Edward W Said Memorial Lecture is an initiative sponsored by the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the American University in Cairo, and it was delivered this year by the distinguished American scholar David Damrosch, a colleague of Edward Said's at Columbia University in New York, and we are indebted to Professor Damrosch for his generosity in allowing us to reproduce the text of his lecture here.
In his lecture, Damrosch notes Edward Said's lifelong determination to restore to literature its social contexts and meanings, seeing well-known works by Said like The World, the Text and the Critic (1983) and his path-breaking 1978 volume Orientalism as manifesto pieces for the kind of criticism that Edward Said sought all his life to write, as well as detailed examples of it. Damrosch shows how Said's concern to write a worldly criticism, one that engages with the world and has a particular situation in it, can be extended to illuminate the concept of "world literature", offering new kinds of creative affiliation.
Along with the Edward W Said Memorial Lecture, we are also publishing in this issue interviews with two of Said's oldest friends who knew him while he was still living as a child in Cairo, a city he described in his memoir Out of Place as "the one city in the world in which I felt more or less at home."
In addition to literature, classical music was a further great love of Edward Said's life, and he was himself an accomplished pianist. In these interviews, notably in that with Selim Sednaoui, this lifelong engagement with music is strongly evident, from Said's earliest years as a pupil at the Tiegerman Conservatory in Cairo to one of his last major public engagements, his decision to form the East/West Divan Orchestra with the musician Daniel Barenboim. Sednaoui remembers the young Edward Said as being a "self- confident young man, who was very successful in many ways," and he says here that he was surprised by the picture Said presented of his Cairo years in his memoir Out of Place. Sednaoui's memories supply an essential counterpoint to that volume, indicating how the young man described in it might have been seen by others and by contemporaries.
In a recent volume, Power, Politics and Culture: Interviews with Edward Said (London: Bloomsbury, 2005), Edward Said writes that "in many ways interviews are sustained acts of discovery, not only for the person being interviewed but even for the well-prepared interviewer."
In addition to Said's regular contributions to the paper, we at Al-Ahram Weekly also had the privilege of interviewing Edward Said on several occasions and publishing the results from 1993 onwards. In an interview with the Weekly in 1994, for example, while he was spending a month in Cairo working on his memoir Out of Place, Said explained further his relation to the city of his youth.
"I find Cairo fantastically rich and interesting," he said then. "Cairo means the most to me for two reasons. One is its spectacular setting, and the majesty of some of its architecture and the bustle of energy of its local street life. And the other is its people... I am particularly fond of Egyptian spoken Arabic, and I like the play of language and the sound of the words against the traffic and the theatre of it. Most cities to me are quite mute, and it is certainly true of the great routine cities where although the language is known to me it is never experienced on such an intimate level."
We would like to think of the lecture and interviews published in this issue as a tribute to Said's special relationship with the city in which Al-Ahram Weekly appears, a relationship that no doubt played a role in Said's choice of our newspaper as the one from which he chose to address the Arab world.
We also hope that the reader, whether new to the work of Edward Said or already well acquainted with it, will find in this edition either a way in to the work of Edward Said or the means towards a rediscovery of it, and we intend to explore other aspects of Said's legacy in future issues.