‘Said was a man of enormous intellectual distinction,’ said Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, where Said had been Professor of English and Comparative Literature since 1992. ‘He devoted his life to, and intimately engaged with, works of art, especially the novel and the poem through his writings and teaching he transformed our sense of ourselves by forcing us in the Western world to confront the implicit assumptions we have about other peoples around the globe.’
Said rose to fame after the publication of his book Orientalism, in which he criticised western academics for perceiving the world through imperialist eyes. The book has remained a best seller since its first publication in 1978, and continues to steer academic discourse. Said’s works have been translated into 36 languages.
Said was a powerful and articulate campaigner for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. He received much criticism for accusing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of ‘collaborating with military occupation’ after the Oslo peace accords with Israel in 1993.