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New Left Review I/160, November-December 1986


Edward Said

On Palestinian Identity: A Conversation with Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie: The purpose of this evening is to talk about Edward’s new book, After the Last Sky. [*] After the Last Sky, Faber and Faber, London 1986, £6.95pbk. The discussion published here took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, in September 1986. First I would like briefly to introduce Edward—although, judging by the number of people who have come and are unable to get in, that may hardly be necessary. For those of us who see the struggle between Eastern and Western descriptions of the world as both an internal and an external struggle, Edward Said has for many years been an especially important voice. Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia and author of literary criticism on, among others, Joseph Conrad, Edward has always had the distinguishing feature that he reads the world as closely as he reads books. We need only think of that major trilogy which precedes After the Last Sky. In the first volume, Orientalism, he analysed ‘the affiliation of knowledge with power’, discussing how the scholars of the period of Empire helped to create an image of the East which provided the justification for the supremacist ideology of imperialism. This was followed by The Question of Palestine, which described the struggle between a world primarily shaped by Western ideas—that of Zionism and later of Israel—and the largely ‘oriental’ realities of Arab Palestine. Then came Covering Islam, subtitled ‘How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World’, in which the West’s invention of the East is, so to speak, brought up to date through a discussion of responses to the islamic revival.

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