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Places of Mind Reviews

Places of Mind by Timothy Brennan

Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said

Timothy Brennan

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication date: 18 Mar 2021
ISBN: 9781526614650

Drawing on extensive archival sources and hundreds of interviews, Timothy Brennan's Places of Mind is the first comprehensive biography of Said, one of the most controversial and celebrated intellectuals of the 20th century.

4 stars out of 5
Ahdaf Soueif
21 Apr 2021

"(a) critical, generous and heartfelt biography"

Out of Place is, of course, the inescapable foil against which the first 100 or so pages of Places of Mind will be read – and found wanting. Said’s memoir is a forensic excavation of his young self and the circumstances that led to that permanent condition of “outsider”. He was pretty severe with that young self, so it feels somewhat de trop to have someone else piling in on it. I wonder, though, if Brennan’s harshness with the younger Edward was out of impatience to be once again in the company of the Said he knew – and loved.

“Over three unpromising decades,” Brennan writes, “Said kept the critical spirit alive… and gave it its warmest, kindest, angriest and most honest shape.” This, he suggests is part of what will keep literary and social criticism alive and relevant. This critical, generous and heartfelt biography will be a serious ally in the enterprise. The conversations continue.


4 stars out of 5
Avi Shlaim
13 Apr 2021

"a nuanced, intimate and highly — sometimes perhaps overly — sympathetic portrait"

The most compelling aspect of this biography is the account of Said’s childhood in Jerusalem and Cairo in the 1930s and 1940s, school and university in America, and ever deepening engagement in the Palestinian struggle after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Said wrote eloquently about this period in his autobiography Out of Place. Much of that book revolved around Said’s relationship with his austere, authoritarian father and his adoring, yet ambivalent, mother. Brennan completes the picture by showing how this formative period, and especially the first-hand experience of British colonialism and American imperialism, influenced Said’s later work