Har Dayal in 1934. Photo via the South Asian American Digital Archive.

Oriental life in Berlin during the war was quite picturesque and many-sided. But it was something of a tragedy, as I shall have occasion to show in the sequel. There were all nations of the East in the streets of Berlin: conceited Young Turks, fussy Egyptians, acute but pessimistic Persians, nondescript Arabs, handsome Georgians and others, who fancied that the triumph of German arms would redress the wrongs of their countries. Berlin was the Mecca of Oriental patriots of all shades of opinion. Their common bond was hatred of England and France. Every one formed plans for the regeneration of his Fatherland after the war. Their optimism was rather premature, as the ruthless logic of events has demonstrated. But during the first two years of the war these Oriental nationalists were elated with high hopes and went about in a state of political intoxication produced by a too ample dose of the Pan-Germanic "hasheesh." Thus a noted middle-aged Egyptian politician said on one occasion: "The liberation of Egypt is certain. I am 100 percent, sure of it." A party of young Egyptian students met in solemn conclave one day to discuss the measures to be taken immediately after the end of the war! It is worth remembering as a joke of the wartime that some Egyptian politicians had even nominated themselves in imagination to the highest offices of state in free Egypt! The Turks were all chauvinistic, and it was their habit to decry other Islamic nations. Thus a young Turkish official said to me: 'You know it is pure Turkish blood, Anatolian blood, that has been shed at Gallipoli. We Turks have thus saved the cause of Islam. Others have done nothing. We pity poor India and the Indian people." The supercilious tone of these remarks well illustrates the spirit of the new Turkish imperialists. Some Algerians also carried on their " propaganda " in bad French. One of them delivered a public lecture, which was insufferably dull, and which really proved that the people of Algeria were not discontented with French rule. But the obtuse patriot could not see the point. Unbounded optimism and sincere faith in the power and professions of Germany were common to all these Oriental " Nationalists." As I contemplated their somewhat sad countenances and heard their plaintive accents, I was touched with pity, as I knew that they sighed for an irrevocable past. They talked of the "Caliphate," of the age of the Crusades, of the Jihad-i-Akbar! I could not tell them all I thought. They were the rearguard of a vanishing host, not the pioneers of a new generation. They fed themselves on words, words, words. And they rejoiced at the German victories, as if they could sustain themselves by vicarious strength. And at last that bubble, too, burst!

Har DayalForty-four months in Germany and Turkey February 1915 to October 1918, a record of personal impressions (1920)


Said lecturing in Paris forty years after writing this article. 11/28/1999.
Photo by Rainer Ganahl.

Below is an article written in the Daily Princetonian by Edward Said when he was a 20 year-old undergraduate at Princeton. In his memoir Out of Place (1999) Said wrote that the "article was published without provoking the kind of response that it might have had if it had appeared after 1967. It was my first piece of political writing, but so quiescent were political passions and so muted were Zionist opinions—this was, after all, when Eisenhower in effect compelled Israel to withdraw from Sinai—that I was able to publish it quite easily." Speaking with Zoe Heller in 1993, Said said that the 1956 Suez War "stirred me to write my first political article — I took some very emotional positions, I seem to remember.”
Gamal Abdel Nasser's announcement of his country's nationalization of the Suez Canal was the culmination of a series of stalemates between the Arabs and the West. This latest crisis arose ostensibly from the West's refusal to help finance the Aswan High Dam Project. To a large extent this is true. Judging from reliable sources as well as enraged editorial opinion, the West, acting through Mr. Eugene Black, President of the World Bank, had offered a portion of the sum required for the Project only after the Egyptian Government agreed to certain conditions. Among these were: 1.) a clause stating that none of this money was to be spent on the Project without receiving Western approval, 2). agreement to what was called "an outrageous rate of interest," and 3.) that Egypt make peace with Israel. While these conditions might at first seem reasonable, nevertheless they fitted an expected pattern of apparently anti-Arab Western policy when compared with the Soviet counter offer. It consisted of a reported "adequate sum," a pay-when-you-can stipulation with no interest, and no mention of the Egypt-Israel quarrel. In his July 26 speech, Nasser intimated that because subsequent negotiations had resulted in failure Egypt had been forced to seek funds for the Project from Egypt's own resources. Its source of money: the Suez Canal.

Even though the Russian offer evidently concealed some other plan, the West and especially the U.S. suffered a by no means negligible fall in prestige and esteem. Furthermore, Nasser was legally justified in his move—it was not a grab or seizure as Britain and France would have; since the Suez Canal Company was an Egyptian Company of limited liability—and in the eyes of his countrymen and the rest of the Arab world that was sufficient.  

For a fair consideration of the crisis, it is this writer's opinion that Nasser must be considered as a sincere, dedicated, (if inexperienced) man. Because he is such a man. his confidence in the West was shaken, and not as Mr. Dulles once said,the West's confidence in Nasser. The U.S. is viewed as Israel's chief abettor in that state's struggle against the Arabs. And it is the injustices committed against the Arabs, injustices all stemming from the Palestine question, that can be blamed for most Near Eastern problems. For Nasser and the Egyptians, the Suez Canal venture was a great blow struck for the Arabs. While it has been the policy of Western observers to view Nasser as a potential Hitler (Anthony Eden made no bones about this in his speech to the British people) he is considered to be Arabism's chief warrior in the continuing struggle for unity against British and French colonialism.  

In spite of Western retaliation in the form of economic sanctions, Nasser is managing to keep shipping in the Canal as always. There should be no doubt in Western minds that Nasser's promise to maintain passage in the Canal free at all times, is sincere. That he should gradually play into Communist hands and jeopardize freedom of shipping is improbable since Egypt is equally loth to submit to Soviet imperialism. Because he has been forced to opportunism it remains in his best interests to allow all countries use of the Canal. At present, Allied schemes, user's associations etc., seem to have caused more discord amongst Western powers than worry in Nasser's camp. The solution seems to lie in acceptance of the fact that the Canal is Egyptian in all senses of the word, that Nasser's promises will be upheld, and a wholehearted attempt to nurture Arab friendship is a safeguard for both Arab and Western interests.
(Edward W. Said, Daily Princetonian, Volume 80, Number 97, 11 October 1956, p. 2.) 


As soon as the crusade began, the Muslim Brothers took over all the minarets in Gaza, Khan Yunis, Rafah, and Deir al-Balah. And from the minarets they shouted, not "Allahu Akbar!" but "Down with Communism!" 
The Muslim Brothers had not raised the Qur'an against the Baghdad Pact, nor against Israel occupation. They had not raised it for the return of Egyptian administration to Gaza, not to celebrate the United Arab Republic or the July 14 Revolution in Iraq. But now they raised the Qur'an high and shouted: "Your Qur'an is in danger! Down with communism!"' 
The Qur'an is in danger only when it is raised by these, who defile it by bringing it to the chambers of the director of secret police and the director of Intelligence. 
Mu'in Basisu, Descent Into the Water: Palestinian Notes from Arab Exile (1980) 


I always wonder
what they think the niggers are doing
while they, the pink and alabaster pragmatists, 
are containing 
and defining and re-defining and re-aligning 
nobly restraining themselves, meanwhile,
from blowing up that earth
which they have already 
blasphemed into dung: 
the gentle, wide-eyed, cheerful
ladies, and their men,
nostalgic for the noble cause of Vietnam,
nostalgic for noble causes,
aching, nobly, to wade through the blood of savages—
Uncas shall never leave the reservation, 
except to purchase whisky at the State Liquor Store.
The Panama Canal shall remain forever locked: 
there is a way around every treaty.
We will turn the tides of the restless
the sun will rise, and set
on our hotel balconies as we see fit.
The natives will have nothing to complain about,
indeed, they will begin to be grateful, will be better off than ever before. 
They will learn to defer gratification
and save up for things, like we do. 

Oh, yes. They will.
We have only to make an offer
they cannot refuse.

This flag has been planted on the moon:
it will be interesting to see 
what steps the moon will take to be revenged 
for this quite breathtaking presumption
This people
masturbate in winding sheets. 
They have hacked their children to pieces. 
They have never honoured a single treaty 
made with anyone, anywhere.
The walls of their cities
are as foul as their children.
No wonder their children come at them with knives.
Mad Charlie man's son was one of their children, 
had got his shit together
by the time he left kindergarten,
and, as for Patty, heiress of all the ages,
she had the greatest vacation of any heiress, anywhere:

Golly-gee, whillikens, Mom, real guns!
and they come with a real bug, black funky stud, too: 
oh, Ma! he's making eyes at me!

Oh, noble Duke Wayne, 
be careful in them happy hunting grounds.
They say the only good Indian 
is a dead Indian,
by what I say is, 
you can't be too careful, you hear?
Oh, towering Ronnie Reagan,
wise and resigned lover of redwoods, 
deeply beloved, winning man-child of the yearning

from diaper to football field to Warner Brothers

be thou our grinning, gently phallic, Big Boy of all the ages!

Salt peanuts, salt peanuts,
for dear hearts and gentle people, 
and cheerful, shining, simple Uncle Sam!

Nigger, read this and run!
Now, if you can't read, 
run anyhow!

From Manifest Destiny
(Cortez, and all his men
silent upon a peak in Darien)
to A Decent Interval,
and the chopper rises above Saigon,
abandoning the noble cause
and the people we have made ignoble
and whom we leave there, now, to die, 
one moves, With All Deliberate Speed,
to the South China Sea, and beyond, 
where millions of new niggers
await glad tidings!

No, said the Great Man's Lady,
I'm against abortion,
I always feel that's killing somebody.
Well, what about capital punishment?
I think the death penalty helps.

That's right.
Up to your ass in niggers
on Death Row.

Oh, Susanna,
don't you cry for me!


Well, I guess what the niggers 
is supposed to be doing
is putting themselves in the path 
of that old sweet chariot
and have it swing down and carry us home.

That would help, as they say,
and they got ways
of sort of nudging the chariot.
They still got influence
with Wind and Water,
though they in for some surprises
with Cloud and Fire.

My days are not their days.
My ways are not their ways.
I would not think of them,
one way or the other,
Did not they so grotesquely
block the view
between me and my brother.

And, so, I always wonder:
can blindness be desired?
Then, what must the blinded eyes have seen
to wish to see no more!

For I have seen, 
in the eyes regarding me, 
or regarding my brother, 
have seen deep in the farthest valley
of the eye, have seen
a flame leap up, then flicker and go out,
have seen a veil come down,
leaving myself, and the other,
alone in that cave
which every soul remembers, and
out of which, desperately afraid, 
I turn, turn, stagger, stumble out, 
into the healing air,
fall flat on the healing ground, 
singing praises, counseling
my heart, my soul, to praise.

What is it that this people
cannot forget?

Surely, they cannot be deluded
as to imagine that their crimes
are original?

There is nothing in the least original
about the fiery tongs to the eyeballs,
the sex torn from the socket,
the infant ripped from the womb, 
the brains dashed out against rock,
nothing original about Judas,
or Peter, or you or me: nothing:
we are liars and cowards all,
or nearly all, or nearly all the time:
for we also ride the lightning,
answer the thunder, penetrate whirlwinds,
curl up on the floor of the sun,
and pick our teeth with thunderbolts.

Then, perhaps they imagine
that their crimes are not crimes? 

Perhaps that is why they cannot repent, 
why there is no possibility of repentance.
Manifest destiny is a hymn to madness, 
feeding on itself, ending
(when it ends) in madness: 
the action is blindness and pain,
pain bringing a torpor so deep 
that every act is willed,
is desperately forced,
is willed to be a blow: 
the hand becomes a fist,
the prick becomes a club, 
the womb a dangerous swamp,
the hope, and fear, of love
is acid in the marrow of the bone. 
No, their fire is not quenched, 
nor can be: the oil feeding the flames
being the unadmitted terror of the wrath of God. 

Yes. But let us put it in another, 
less theological way: 
though theology has absolutely nothing to do 
with what I am trying to say.
But the moment God is mentioned
theology is summoned
to buttress or demolish belief:
an exercise which renders belief irrelevant
and adds to the despair of Fifth Avenue 
on any afternoon, 
the people moving, homeless, through the city,
praying to find sanctuary before the sky 
and the towers come tumbling down, 
before the earth opens, as it does in Superman.
They know that no one will appear
to turn back time, 
they know it, just as they know
that the earth has opened before 
and will open again, just as they know
that their empire is falling, is doomed,
nothing can hold it up, nothing.
We are not talking about belief. 


I wonder how they think
the niggers, make it, 
how come the niggers are still here. 
But, then, again, I don't think they dare
to think of that: no: 
I'm fairly certain they don't think of that at all.

I with the alabaster lady of the house, 
with Beulah.
Beulah about sixty, built in four-square, 
biceps like Mohammed Ali,
she at the stove, fixing biscuits, 
scrambling eggs and bacon, fixing coffee, 
pouring juice, and the lady of the house,
she say, she don't know how
she'd get along without Beulah
and Beulah just silently grunts,
I reckon you don't,
and keeps on keeping on
and the lady of the house say
She's just like one of the family,
and Beulah turns, gives me a look, 
sucks her teeth and rolls her eyes
in the direction of the lady's back, and
keeps on keeping on. 

While they are containing 
and entering tonto the quicksand of 
and patronizing
and calculating
the Caribbean plunder, and
the South China Sea booty, 
the niggers are aware that no one has discussed 
anything at all with the niggers. 

Well. Niggers don't own nothing,
got no flag, even out names 
are hand-me-downs
and you don't change that 
by calling yourself X:
sometimes that just makes it worse, 
like obliterating the path that leads back
to whence you came, and 
to where you can begin. 
and, anyway, none of this changes the reality, 
which is, for example, that I do not want my son 
to dies in Guantanamo, 
or anywhere else, for that matter, 
serving the Stars and Stripes. 
(I've seen some stars.
got some stripes.) 

Neither (incidentally)
has anyone discussed the Bomb with the niggers:
the incoherent feeling is, the less
the nigger knows about the Bomb, the better: 
the lady of the house
smiles nervously in your direction
as though she had just been overheard
discussing family, or sexual secrets, 
and changes the subject to Education, 
or Full Employment, or the Welfare rolls, 
the smile saying, Don't be dismayed.
We know how you feel. You can trust us.

Yeah. I would like to believe you.
But we are not talking about belief.


The sons of greed, the heirs of plunder,
are approaching the end of their journey: 
it is amazing that they approach without wonder, 
as though they have, themselves, become
that scorched and blasphemed earth, 
the stricken buffalo, the slaughtered tribes, 
the endless, virgin, bloodsoaked plain,
the famine, the silence, the children's eyes, 
murder masquerading as salvation, seducing
every democratic eye,
the mouths of truth and anguish choked with cotton, 
rape delirious with the fragrance of magnolia,
the hacking of the fruit of their loins to pieces, 
hey! the tar-baby sons and nephews, the high-yaller
and Tom's black prick hacked off
to rustle in crinoline, 
to hang, heaviest of heirlooms,
between the pink and alabaster breasts
of the Great Man's Lady,
or worked into the sash at the waist
of the high-yaller Creole bitch, or niece,
a chunk of shining brown-black satin,
staring, staring, like the single eye of God:

creation yearns to re-create a time
when we were able to recognize a crime. 

my stricken kinsmen, 
the party is over: 
there have never been any white people, 
anywhere: the trick was accomplished with mirrors—
look: where is your image now? 
where your inheritance, 
on what rock stands this pride?

I counsel you, 
leave history alone.
She is exhausted, 
sitting, staring into her dressing-room mirror,
and wondering what rabbit, now, 
to pull out what hat, 
and seriously considering retirement, 
even though she knows her public
dare not let her go.

She must change. 
Yes. History must change. 
A slow, syncopated
relentless music begins
suggesting her re-entry,
transformed, virginal as she was,
in the Beginning, untouched, 
as the Word was spoken, 
before the rape which debased her
to be the whore of multitudes, or, 
as one might say, before she became the Star, 
whose name, above our title, 
carries the Show, making History the patsy,
responsible for every flubbed line, 
every missed cue, responsible for the life
and death, of all bright illusions
and dark delusions,
Lord, History is weary
of her unspeakable liaison with Time, 
for Time and History
have never seen eye to eye: 
Time laughs at History
and time and time and time again
Time traps History in a lie.

But we always, somehow, managed
to roar History back onstage
to take another bow,
to justify, to sanctify
the journey until now. 

Time warned us to ask for out money back, 
and disagreed with History
as concerns colours white and black.
Not only do we come from further back,
but the light of the Sun
marries all colours as one. 

I have seen you betray your Saviour
(it is you who call Him Saviour) 
so many times, and
I have spoken to Him about you, 
behind your back. 
Quite a lot has been going on 
behind your back, and, 
if your phone has not yet been disconnected, 
it will soon begin to ring: 
informing you, for example, that whole generation, 
in Africa, is about to die, 
and a new generation is about to rise,
and will not need your bribes, 
or your persuasions, any more: 
not your morality. No plundered gold—
Ah! Kinsmen, if I could make you see
the crime is not what you have done to me!
It is you who are blind, 
you, bowed down with chains, 
you, whose children mock you, and seek another 
you, who cannot look man or woman or child in the 
whose sleep is blank with terror, 
for whom love died long ago,
somewhere between the airport and the safe-deposit
the buying and selling of rising or falling stocks, 
you, who miss Zanzibar and Madagascar and Kilimanjaro
and lions and tigers and elephants and zebras 
and flying fish and crocodiles and alligators and
and crashing waterfalls and endless rivers, 
flowers fresher than Eden, silence sweeter than the 
grace of God,
passion at every turning, throbbing in the bush, 
thicker, oh, than honey in the hive, 
opening, welcoming, aching from toe to bottom
to spine, 
sweet heaven on the line
to last forever, yes, 
but, now, 
rejoicing ends, man, a price remains to pay, 
your innocence costs too much
and we can't carry you on our books
or our backs, any longer: baby,
find another Eden, another apple tree,
somewhere, if you can, 
and find some other natives, somewhere else,
to listen to you bellow
till you come, just like a man, 
but we don't need you,
are sick of being a fantasy to feed you, 
and of being the principal accomplice to your
for, it is your crime, now, the cross to which you
your Alpha and Omega for everything. 

Well (others have told you)
your clown's grown weary, the puppet master
is bored speechless with this monotonous disaster, 
and is long gone, does not belong to you, 
any more than my woman, or my child, 
ever belonged to you. 

During this long travail
our ancestors spoke to us, and we listened, 
and we tried to make you hear life in out song
but ow it matters not at all to me 
whether you know what I am talking about—or not:
I know why are we are no blinded
by your brightness, are able to see you, 
who cannot see us. I know 
why we are still here. 

The niggers are calculating, 
from day to day, life everlasting, 
and wish you well: 
but decline to imitate the Son of the Morning, 
and rule in Hell. 
James Baldwin, Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems, ed. Nikky Finney (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014)