Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Simon Leys On Edward Said

Reading recently "The Burning Forest" by Simon Leys, the scholar of Chinese culture and a novelist in French, I was pleased to find a copy of the replies he had made, several decades ago, to a set of questions based on "Orientalism" -- that book, ballyhooed and baleful, that at the time was still taken seriously, and then some.

The questions, and Leys' replies, under the title "Orientalism and Sinology," end with this final question-and-reply: 

"We should question the advisability of too close a relationship between the scholar and the state":

You bet we should! On this point I could not agree more with Said -- yet it is hardly an original conclusion. The very concept of the "university" has rested for some seven hundred years on the absolute autonomy and freedom of all academic and scholarly activities from any interference and influence of the political authorities. It is nice to see that Said is now rediscovering such a basic notion; I only deplore that it took him three hundred pages of twisted, obscure, incoherent, ill-informed, and badly written diatribe to reach at last one sound and fundamental truism.


Posted on 02/13/2013 1:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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