Always an Opportunity

Tariq Ali, Conversations with Edward Said

22 May 2006

There’s not much to this 128-page book, a long interview between Ali and Said, “the true chronicler of his people and their occupied homeland,” most all of which I was familiar from other books and interviews. Still, here are the passages I noted—

Said’s lineage: the German philological tradition of comparative literature  6 [Thus his essay on Auerbach in Humanism and Democratic Criticism].

On Mentoring: But he saw than I was musical and that I was terribly interested, and I spent a lot of time with him, not just studying but also listening to him, talking with him, and so it was a very important relationship for me. 39 [Give my all to students]

On Music: Very few people today get musical training. 43 it is also being exposed to different kinds of music, with knowledge, to learn about reading music, to learn about scores, to learn about the history of music, to learn about the history of forms, to distinguish between an opera and an operetta, between a fugue and a canon, etc.  44  [There’s plenty to do!]

His mission: I feel that authorities, canons, dogmas, orthodoxies, establishments, are really what we’re up against. At least what I’m up against, most of the time. They deaden thought. 104  [As Andrew avers, there’s an endless amount of work to do, resist and create]

The position:  I think of myself as an agitator.  105 [How and where can we agitate better?]

The defiance: …there’s always an opportunity, no matter how one feels oneself up against the wall with no alternative but to submit—which is usually what it’s all about in the end—there’s always an opportunity to do something else. There’s always an opportunity to formulate an alternative, and not either to remain silent or to capitulate. 108  [Never throw in the towel, never say “I surrender”]

On clothes: I think a serous intellectual can take an interest in appearances, because appearances are very important. 128 [Tell Peter Maurin and the Catholic Workers]


Rafah, Gaza, Palestine; 2003

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