This is an unabashedly anti-colonialist (read "anti-western") book. A book like this would likely appeal to those who believe that the United States has a duty to apologize to the rest of the world for its actions and policies of the last century and particularly since World War II. While history certainly provides sufficient evidence that the predominantly white west has done its share to exploit the non-white, nonwestern world, I – and likely most U.S. citizens – reject the notion that the United States is the moral successor to the western imperialists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Said is in the anti-colonialist camp that lumps the United States of today with the England, France, and Holland of yesteryear.
History provides examples of U.S. exploitation and unwelcome meddling in third-world affairs to be sure, but Said’s position seems to minimize, if not ignore, any redeeming qualities of the west. While not ignoring the corruption high-handedness of some nonwestern post-colonial leaders, he seems to blame the west for their ascension and durability, as well. The west, in his view, has promoted the bourgeoisie of the decolonizing world, allowing them to relegate their masses to further subjugation – even if at the hands of leaders who look like them. At what point do formally colonized countries begin to take responsibility for the condition of their nations? This question remains unanswered. Said begins the book by stating that he can provide alternatives to the diametrically opposed views of the American Exceptionalist and the anti-colonialists, but the book does not seem to offer any clear solutions or alternatives.
With that said, I recognize that the book is primarily a critical review of western literature and not necessarily an attempt to resolve all the problems of west/non-west relations. Said does do a thorough job of reviewing authors from Austen to Conrad and Camus to Faubert. He points out the references to colonialism in the works of western authors that might go unnoticed to the unaware reader, and introduces the reader to works of non-western authors of the decolonizing world.
Peter Ganim does a fantastic job of narrating this book. His diction is clear, his voice is pleasant, and he provides just the right amount of emphasis to create interest in what could be a pretty dry listen.
While I do not personally agree with the views of Edward Said, I would read another book by him, and would read more books written from an anticolonialist point of view, if only to understand the roots of anti-American sentiment. I am a firm believer of reading the views of those you disagree with as well as those with whom you feel to be your kindred spirits.
Peter Ganim brings an inflection and drama (although controlled and understated) to the text that makes this erudite and intellectual book much easier to digest.
This book would not make a good film. Its subject matter is not the stuff of cinema.
First, the book itself is fantastic--Cather at her best. The narrator has clear diction, and does a good job with Swedish and German accents. However, it took a few minutes for me to get used to her "regular" narration accent, which has a little too much "finishing school" pretention to it for my ear. The only other criticism is that the recording, originally created for audio cassette, has an errant announcement to turn the tape to Side Two. This occurs somewhere close to the end of the first of the two-part blackberry download, and might prove confusing for some. For me it was a minor annoyance, and think Audible would do well to see that this gets edited out.
A great listen, expertly narrated. Each character's distinct personality comes through in this very colorful interpretive read.
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