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SUSAN SONTAG December 29, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed.

I do not pretend to know anything at all about Susan Sontag, except we have her book, Illness As Metaphor, but I was struck by her stand on September 11 and the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq contained in this ABC report. I will quote in full, since I doubt I can find it otherwise:

Author and social critic Susan Sontag, one of the strongest voices of intellectual opposition to US policies after the September 11 attacks, has died at the age of 71. Sontag, who had suffered from leukemia for some time, died in a New York cancer hospital.

She was known for interests that ranged from French existentialist writers to ballet, photography and politics. She was the author of 17 books and was a lifelong human rights activist. Her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. Among her best-known works was a 1964 study of homosexual aesthetics called Notes on Camp.

Sontag was among the first to raise a dissenting voice after September 11, 2001, in a controversial New Yorker magazine essay arguing that talk of an “attack on civilisation” was “drivel”. She ignited a firestorm of criticism when she declared that the attacks were not a “cowardly attack” on civilisation but “an act undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions”. Sontag had since been an outspoken critic of US President George W Bush over his response to the September 11 attacks and particularly the US-led war in Iraq.

“I can confirm she passed away this morning,” a spokeswoman at New York’s Sloan Kettering hospital said but declined to give any more details.

Born in New York in 1933, Ms Sontag grew up in Arizona and Los Angeles before going to the University of Chicago, and later Harvard and Oxford. She wrote novels, non-fiction books, plays and film-scripts as well as essays for The New Yorker, Granta, the New York Review of Books and other literary titles.

A long-time opponent of war and a human rights activist, Sontag spent several years in Sarajevo and staged Beckett’s Waiting for Godot there under siege in the summer of 1993. From 1987 to 1989 she was president of the American Centre of PEN, an international writers’ organisation dedicated to freedom of expression. She led a number of campaigns on behalf of persecuted and imprisoned writers.

In 2003, she was awarded a peace prize in Germany and the Prince of Asturias Prize in Spain.

Earlier honours included the US National Book Award for her novel In America in 2000.


Nothing of her political criticism about contemporary events and political and other responses to them can be found in the obituaries of The New York Times. Here is an example. Funny that.

UPDATE: 30/12/2004

Keeping in mind the qualification above, you must read David Tiley’s review of Susan Sontag as Barista.

UPDATE: 07/01/2005

The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times overlooked Sontag’s lesbian relationships in their obituaries. Is this a critical issue or not? I have no idea.



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