Places of Mind

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

The first comprehensive biography of the most influential, controversial, and celebrated Palestinian intellectual of the twentieth century.

Both controversial and beloved, Edward Said was the pioneer of postcolonial studies, a tireless champion for his native Palestine, and an erudite literary critic whose books, namely Orientalism, continue to impact students and thinkers today. In Places of Mind, Timothy Brennan--who studied under Said and remained a friend until Said's death in 2003--provides the first complete biography of his thesis adviser, who emerges as a self-doubting, tender, eloquent advocate of literature's dramatic effects on politics and civic life.

Charting the intertwined routes of Said's intellectual development, Places of Mind reveals him to be a brilliant iconoclast: a cajoler and strategist, a New York intellectual with a foot in Beirut, an orchestra impresario in Weimar and Ramallah, a raconteur on national television, a Palestinian negotiator at the State Department, and an actor in films in which he played himself. Brennan traces the Arab influences on Said's thinking along with the tutelage by Lebanese statesmen, offbeat modernist auteurs, and New York literati as Said grew into a scholar whose writings changed the face of university life forever. With both intimidating intellect and charm, Said melded these teachings into a groundbreaking and influential countertradition of radical humanism set against the backdrop of techno-scientific dominance and religious war. With unparalleled clarity, he gave the humanities a new authority in the age of Reaganism, one that continues today.

Drawing on the testimony of family, friends, students, and antagonists alike, and aided by FBI files and Said's unpublished writings, drafts of novels, and personal letters, Places of Mind synthesizes Said's intellectual breadth and influence into an unprecedented, intimate, and compelling portrait of one of the great minds of the twentieth century.

Publication Date: 
March 22, 2022