Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Have put aside Na Han for a bit, and started on Edward Said.

Said's work was inspired by the deep feelings of dislocation and loss that he felt for most of his life. From his original work on Joseph Conrad, to the groundbreaking Orientalism, to his Palestinian activism.

Conrad was of particular interest to Said, who saw a kindred exile in the Polish-born writer. Conrad only wrote in English, and that these novels are considered some of the best of the 20th Century is amazing -- English was Conrad's third language.

Said himself specialised in literary criticism, and was a fine writer in his own right. Like Conrad, English was not Said's native tongue.

It must be said, of course, that both writers did manage to immerse themselves in an English-speaking society. Conrad became a naturalised Englishman, while Said spent almost his entire academic life at Columbia University, New York. Nonetheless, these writers were never quite at home in their Western (for lack of a more precise term) environments.

And then there is the attractive unpretentiousness of the Kings of Convenience. Norwegian-born, Norwegian-bred, but somehow ending up writing and singing in English. I wonder if they feel the same kind of uneasiness that Conrad and Said felt? Maybe not exactly, but maybe there is an essence of the exile at work (play?) here. In looking in, everything seems clearer. But the price of vision is friction.

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