“The Man Who Would Be My Wife” treated me to a day lounging on the Bosphorus, nested into a bay with dozens of other boats with their precious cargoes of families and friends.
The spoils of lunch were followed by a light dinner, delicious dessert,and regional fruit.
The juxtaposition of leisure and pleasure with radical politics (“the extreme side of communication”) has been on my mind. How does an individual justify the personal exercise of privilege while people are being killed? I know I need the space and time to be thoughtful instead of reactionary. The danger, I guess, is in being lulled into aesthetic perception as a permanent desire.
Said and Ali have a brief discussion about “a Chinese wall” between art and politics (69-70). As I understand their use of the metaphor (the reference being new to me), it refers to the institutionalization of a separation between aesthetics and politics, such that art is (supposedly) produced for art’s sake alone, with no political content or possibility (?) of social commentary. Said argues that literature-for-literature’s sake is also false and a recent construction: false because “culture…is hopelessly involved in politics” (103) and a development (in the West, particularly English culture) only of the mid-19th century.
Said declaims to Ali: “I agitate against myself!” (105). Not only against orthodoxies but also against settling into a predictable pattern “governed by things like my own past work” (105). Said’s intellectual restlessness leads him to proclaim the possibility of transgression as a social fact:
“…there’s always an opportunity, no matter how one feels oneself up against the wall with no alternative but to submit &emdash; which is usually what it’s all about in the end &emdash; there’s always an opportunity to do something else. There’s always an opportunity to formulate an alternative, and not either to remain silent or to capitulate” (108).
Yes, and . . . formulating alternatives requires change, requires the enactment of a difference between who I was yesterday and who I am today. Tendrils of the past cling tightly. Reluctantly, I strive to extract myself from the enticements of their grip.