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Susan Sontag
Born January 16, 1933(1933-01-16)
New York City, New York
Died December 28, 2004 (aged 71)
New York City, New York
Occupation Novelist, Essayist
Nationality American
Genres Fiction, essays, nonfiction

Susan Sontag (January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American author, literary theorist, and political activist.

Contents

Life

Sontag, born Susan Rosenblatt, was born in New York City to Jack Rosenblatt and Mildred Jacobsen, both Jewish Americans. Her father ran a fur trading business in China, where he died of tuberculosis when Susan was five years old. Seven years later, her mother married Nathan Sontag. Susan and her sister, Judith, were given their stepfather's surname, although he never formally adopted them.

Sontag did not have a religious upbringing. She claimed to have not entered a synagogue until her mid twenties.[1]

Sontag grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and, later, in Los Angeles, where she graduated from North Hollywood High School at the age of 15. She began her undergraduate studies at Berkeley but transferred to the University of Chicago in admiration of its famed core curriculum. At Chicago, she undertook studies in philosophy and literature alongside her other requirements (Leo Strauss, Richard McKeon and Kenneth Burke were among her lecturers) and graduated with a [Arteum Baccalaureus] A.B.[2] She did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard with Paul Tillich, Jacob Taubes and Morton White et al.[3] After completing her Master of Arts in philosophy and beginning doctoral work at Harvard, Sontag was awarded a University Women's Association scholarship for the 1957-1958 academic year to St Anne's College, Oxford, where she had classes with Iris Murdoch, J. L. Austin, Alfred Jules Ayer, Stuart Hampshire and others. Oxford did not appeal to her, however, and she transferred after Michaelmas term of 1957 to the University of Paris.[4] It was in Paris that Sontag socialised with expatriate artists and academics including Allan Bloom, Jean Wahl, Alfred Chester, Harriet Sohmers and Maria Irene Fornes.[5] Sontag remarked that her time in Paris was, perhaps, the most important period of her life.[6] It certainly provided the grounding for her long intellectual and artistic association with the culture of France.[7]

At 17, while at Chicago, Sontag married Philip Rieff after a ten-day courtship. The philosopher Herbert Marcuse lived with Sontag and Rieff for a year while working on his book Eros and Civilization.[8] Sontag and Rieff were married for eight years throughout which they worked jointly on the study Freud: The Mind of the Moralist that would be attributed solely to Philip Rieff as a stipulation of the couple's divorce in 1958.[9] The couple had a son, David Rieff, who later became his mother's editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, as well as a writer in his own right.

The publication of Against Interpretation (1966), accompanied by a striking dust-jacket photo by Peter Hujar, helped establish Sontag's reputation as "the Dark Lady of American Letters." Movie stars like Woody Allen, philosophers like Arthur Danto, and politicians like Mayor John Lindsay vied to know her.

Grave of Susan Sontag

In her prime, Sontag avoided all pigeonholes. Like Jane Fonda, she went to Hanoi, and wrote of the North Vietnamese society with much sympathy and appreciation (see "Trip to Hanoi" in Styles of Radical Will). She maintained a clear distinction, however, between North Vietnam and Maoist China, as well as East-European communism, which she later famously rebuked as "fascism with a human face."

Sontag died in New York City on 28 December 2004, aged 71, from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome which had evolved into acute myelogenous leukemia. Sontag is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery, in Paris.[10] Her final illness has been chronicled by her son, David Rieff.[11]

Work

Sontag's literary career began and ended with works of fiction. After teaching philosophy and theology at Sarah Lawrence College, City University of New York and Columbia University under Jacob Taubes from 1960 to 1964, Sontag left academia and devoted herself to full-time writing.[12] At age 30, she published an experimental novel called The Benefactor (1963), following it four years later with Death Kit (1967). Despite a relatively small output, Sontag thought of herself principally as a novelist and writer of fiction. Her short story "The Way We Live Now" was published to great acclaim on 26 November, 1986 in The New Yorker. Written in an experimental narrative style, it remains a key text on the AIDS epidemic. She achieved late popular success as a best-selling novelist with The Volcano Lover (1992). At age 67, Sontag published her final novel In America (2000). The last two novels were set in the past, which Sontag said gave her greater freedom to write in the polyphonic voice.

It was as an essayist, however, that Sontag gained early fame and notoriety. Sontag wrote frequently about the intersection of high and low art and the form/content dichotomy across the arts. Her celebrated and widely-read 1964 essay "Notes on 'Camp'" was epoch-defining, examining an alternative sensibility to that which would see the best art in terms of its seriousness. It gestured towards and expounded the "so bad it's good" concept in popular culture for the first time. In 1977, Sontag wrote the essay On Photography, which gave media students and scholars an entirely different perspective of the camera in the modern world. The essay is an exploration of photographs as a collection of the world, mainly by travelers or tourists, and the way we therefore experience it. She outlines the concept of her theory of taking pictures as you travel:

The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic – Germans, Japanese and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.

Sontag suggested photographic "evidence" be used as a presumption that "something exists, or did exist", regardless of distortion. For her, the art of photography is "as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are", for cameras are produced rapidly as a "mass art form" and are available to all of those with the means to attain them. Focusing also on the effect of the camera and photograph on the wedding and modern family life, Sontag reflects that these are a "rite of family life" in industrialized areas such as Europe and America.

To Sontag "picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights - to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on". She considers the camera a phallus, comparable to ray guns and cars, which are "fantasy-machines whose use is addictive". For Sontag the camera can be linked to murder and a promotion of nostalgia while evoking "the sense of the unattainable" in the industrialized world. The photograph familiarizes the wealthy with "the oppressed, the exploited, the starving, and the massacred" but removes the shock of these images because they are available widely and have ceased to be novel. Sontag saw the photograph as valued because it gives information but acknowledges that it is incapable of giving a moral standpoint although it can reinforce an existing one.

Sontag championed European writers such as Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Antonin Artaud, E. M. Cioran, and W. G. Sebald, along with some Americans such as María Irene Fornés. Over several decades she would turn her attention to novels, film, and photography. In more than one book, Sontag wrote about cultural attitudes toward illness. Her final nonfiction work, Regarding the Pain of Others, re-examined art and photography from a moral standpoint. It spoke of how the media affects culture's views of conflict.

A new visual code

In her Essay On Photography Sontag says that the evolution of modern technology has changed the viewer in three key ways. She calls this the emergence of a new visual code.

Firstly, Sontag suggests that modern photography, with its convenience and ease, has created an overabundance of visual material. As photographing is now a practice of the masses, due to a drastic decrease in camera size and increase of ease in developing photographs, we are left in a position where “just about everything has been photographed” (Sontag, Susan, (1977), On Photography 3). We now have so many images available to us of: things, places, events and people from all over the world, and of not immediate relevance to our own existence, that our expectations of what we have the right to view, want to view or should view has been drastically affected. Arguably, gone are the days that we felt entitled of view only those things in our immediate presence or that affected our micro world; we now seem to feel entitled to gain access to any existing images. “In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notion of what is worth looking at and what we have the right to observe” (3). This is what Sontag calls a change in “viewing ethics” (3).

Secondly, Sontag comments on the effect of modern photography on our education, claiming that photographs “now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present”(4). Without photography only those few people who had been there would know what the Egyptian pyramids or the Parthenon look like, yet most of us have a good idea of the appearance of these places. Photography teaches us about those parts of the world that are beyond our touch in ways that literature can not.

Sontag also talks about the way in which photography desensitizes its audience. Sontag introduces this discussion by telling her own story of the first time she saw images of horrific human experience. At twelve years old, Sontag stumbled upon images of holocaust camps and was so distressed by them she says “When I looked at those photographs something broke... something went dead, something is still crying” (20). Sontag argues that there was no good to come from her seeing these images as a young girl, before she fully understood what the holocaust was. For Sontag the viewing of these images has left her a degree more numb to any following horrific image she viewed, as she had been desensitized. According to this argument, “Images anesthetize” and the open accessibility to them is a negative result of photography (20).

Sontag examines the relationship between photography and reality. Photographs are depicted as a representation of realism. Sontag claimed that “such images are indeed able to usurp reality because first of all a photograph is not only an image, an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real (Sontag, Susan (1982), The Image World 350). It is a resemblance of the real as the photograph becomes an extension of the subject. However, the role of the photograph has changed, as copies destroy the idea of an experience. The image has altered to convey information and become an act of classification. Sontag highlights the notion that photographs are a way of imprisoning reality- making the memory stand still. Ultimately images are surveillance of events that trigger the memory. In modern society, photographs are a form of recycling the real. When a moment is captured it is assigned a new meaning as people interpret the image in their own manner. Sontag depicts the idea that images desensitize the real thing, as people's perceptions are distorted by the construction of the photograph. However this has not stopped people from consuming images; there is still a demand for more photographs. Therefore, Sontag has impacted the audience's understanding of reality, as photographs have adapted to a form of surveillance.

Susan Sontag brought out some uses of the photography, “Photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation” (Sontag,1977 10), such as memorizing and providing evidence. She also states that “to collect photography is to collect the world.” (Sontag,1997 3)

Sontag believes that photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. She states that photography has ‘become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation’.[13] She refers to photographs as memento mori, where to take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability and mutability. The progression from the written word to capturing an image shifts the weight of the interpretation from the author to the receiver. Sontag believes however that ‘photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire’.[14] It is a slice in time and in effect, is more memorable than moving images for example, videos. It fills the gaps in our mind of the past and present.[15] Even though photography has such effect, there are limits to photographic knowledge of the world. The limitations are that it can never be interpreted ethical or political knowledge.[16] It will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist. Our modern day society can be described as a society feeding on aesthetic consumerism. There is an addiction and a need to constantly have reality confirmed and experiences enhanced by photographs.[17]

Activism

The former Sarajevo newspaper building. Sontag lived in Sarajevo for months during the siege, directing a production of Waiting for Godot in a candlelit Sarajevo theatre.

In 1989 Sontag was the President of PEN American Center, the main U.S. branch of the International PEN writers' organization. This was the year when Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa death sentence against writer Salman Rushdie after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses. Khomeini and some other Islamic fundamentalists claimed the novel was blasphemous. Sontag's uncompromising support of Rushdie was critical in rallying American writers to his cause.[18]

A few years later, Sontag gained attention for directing Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot during the nearly four-year Siege of Sarajevo. Early in that conflict, Sontag referred to the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the "Spanish Civil War of our time". She sparked controversy among U.S. leftists for advocating U.S. and European military intervention. Sontag lived in Sarajevo for many months of the Sarajevo siege.

Sontag continued to theorize about the role of photography in real life in her essay "Looking at War: Photography's View of Devastation and Death" which appeared in the December 9th, 2002 issue of The New Yorker. In it she acknowledges that the problem of our reliance on images and especially photographic images is not that "people remember through photographs but that they remember only the photographs, .... that the photographic image eclipses other forms of understanding--and remembering. .... To remember is, more and more, not to recall a story but to be able to call up a picture" (94). She re-examines the arguments she posed in On Photography.

Controversies

Sontag drew fire for writing that "Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Balanchine ballets, et al. don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history."[19] Sontag later issued a partial apology for her statement, saying it was insensitive to cancer victims.[citation needed]

In "Sontag, Bloody Sontag," an essay in her book Vamps and Tramps, Camille Paglia describes her initial admiration for Sontag and her subsequent disillusionment with the author. Paglia writes,

Sontag's cool exile was a disaster for the American women's movement. Only a woman of her prestige could have performed the necessary critique and debunking of the first instant-canon feminist screeds, such as those of Kate Millett or Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, whose middlebrow mediocrity crippled women's studies from the start. No patriarchal villains held Sontag back; her failures are her own.

Paglia mentions several criticisms of Sontag, including Harold Bloom's comment on Paglia's doctoral dissertation, of "Mere Sontagisme!" This "had become synonymous with a shallow kind of hip posturing." Paglia also describes Sontag as a "sanctimonious moralist of the old-guard literary world", and tells of a visit by Sontag to Bennington, in which she arrived hours late, ignored the agreed upon topic of the event, and made an incessant series of ridiculous demands.

In 1968 Sontag was criticized for visiting Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, during the Vietnam War.

Ellen Lee accused Sontag of plagiarism when Lee discovered at least twelve passages in In America that were similar to passages in four other books about Helena Modjeska. Those books included a novel by Willa Cather. (Cather wrote: "When Oswald asked her to propose a toast, she put out her long arm, lifted her glass, and looking into the blur of the candlelight with a grave face, said: 'To my coun-n-try!'" Sontag wrote, "When asked to propose a toast, she put out her long arm, lifted her glass, and looking into the blur of the candlelight, crooned, 'To my new country!' " "Country," muttered Miss Collingridge. "Not 'coun-n-try.'") The quotations were presented without credit or attribution.

Sontag said about using the passages, "All of us who deal with real characters in history transcribe and adopt original sources in the original domain. I've used these sources and I've completely transformed them. I have these books. I've looked at these books. There's a larger argument to be made that all of literature is a series of references and allusions."[20]

Sontag sparked controversy for her remarks in The New Yorker (September 24, 2001) about the immediate aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Sontag wrote:

"Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a 'cowardly' attack on 'civilization' or 'liberty' or 'humanity' or 'the free world' but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word 'cowardly' is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): Whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards."[21]

Private life

Sontag became aware of her attraction to women in her early teens and wrote in her diary aged 15, "so now I feel I have lesbian tendencies (how reluctantly I write this)." Aged 16, she had her first sexual encounter with a woman: "Perhaps I was drunk, after all, because it was so beautiful when H began making love to me .... It had been 4:00 before we had gotten to bed ... I became fully conscious that I desired her, she knew it, too...."[22][23]

In the early 1970s, Sontag was romantically involved with Nicole Stéphane (1923-2007), a Rothschild banking heiress turned movie actress.[24] Sontag later engaged in a committed relationship with photographer Annie Leibovitz, with whom she was close during her last years; choreographer Lucinda Childs, writer Maria Irene Fornes, and other women.[25]

In an interview in The Guardian in 2000, Sontag was quite open about her bisexuality:[26]

"Shall I tell you about getting older?", she says, and she is laughing. "When you get older, 45 plus, men stop fancying you. Or put it another way, the men I fancy don't fancy me. I want a young man. I love beauty. So what's new?" She says she has been in love seven times in her life, which seems quite a lot. "No, hang on," she says. "Actually, it's nine. Five women, four men."

Many of Sontag's obituaries failed to mention her significant same-sex relationships, most notably that with Leibovitz. In response to this criticism, The New York Times' Public Editor, Daniel Okrent, defended the newspaper's obituary, stating that at the time of Sontag's death, a reporter could make no independent verification of her romantic relationship with Leibovitz (despite attempts to do so).[27] After Sontag's death, Newsweek published an article about Leibovitz that made clear reference to her decade-plus relationship with Sontag, stating: "The two first met in the late '80s, when Leibovitz photographed her for a book jacket. They never lived together, though they each had an apartment within view of the other's."[28] Susan Sontag's son, David Rieff, the executor of Susan's estate, has stated that only sentimental items were bequeathed to Leibovitz.[29]

Sontag was quoted by Editor-in-Chief Brendan Lemon of Out magazine as saying "I grew up in a time when the modus operandi was the 'open secret'. I'm used to that, and quite OK with it. Intellectually, I know why I haven't spoken more about my sexuality, but I do wonder if I haven't repressed something there to my detriment. Maybe I could have given comfort to some people if I had dealt with the subject of my private sexuality more, but it's never been my prime mission to give comfort, unless somebody's in drastic need. I'd rather give pleasure, or shake things up."

Works

Fiction

Plays

  • (1991) "A Parsifal" [one-act play, first published in _Antaeus_ 67 (1991): 180-185.]
  • (1993) Alice in Bed Library of Congress catalog card number 93-71280
  • (1999) "Lady from the Sea" [adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play of the same name; first published in _Theater_ 29.1 (1999): 89-91.]

Nonfiction

Collections of essays

Sontag also published nonfiction essays in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, Granta, Partisan Review and the London Review of Books.

Monographs

Films

  • (1969) Duett för kannibaler (Duet for Cannibals)
  • (1971) Bröder Carl (Brother Carl)
  • (1974) Promised Lands
  • (1983) Unguided Tour AKA Letter from Venice

Other

Books and articles on Susan Sontag

  • Sontag and Kael by Craig Seligman ISBN 1-58243-311-9.
  • The Din in the Head. Essays by Cynthia Ozick ISBN 978-0-618-47050-1 See Forward: On Discord and Desire.
  • Conversations with Susan Sontag. Edited by Leland Poague ISBN 0-87805-833-8 Susan Sontag in her own words.
  • Susan Sontag. The Elegiac Modernist by Sohnya Sayres ISBN 0-415-90031-X
  • Swimming in a Sea of Death by David Rieff A memoir about Susan Sontag's death by her son.
  • Notes on Sontag by Phillip Lopate

Awards and honors

References

  1. ^ http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/sontag-susan
  2. ^ See L. Poague ed. Conversations with Susan Sontag, Interview with M. McQuade, 'A Gluttonous Reader', University of Mississippi Press, 1995, pp.271-278.
  3. ^ See Susan Sontag, 'Literature is Freedom' in At the Same Time, ed. P. Dilonardo and A. Jump, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007, p.206 and Morton White, A Philosopher's Story, Pennsylvania University Press, 1999, p.148. See also C. Rollyson and L. Paddock Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon, W. W. Norton, 2000, pp.39-40.
  4. ^ See Morton White, A Philosopher's Story, Pennsylvania University Press, 1999, p.148, and C. Rollyson and L. Paddock, Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon, W. W. Norton, 2000, pp.43-45.
  5. ^ See E. Field, The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag, Wisconsin, 2005, pp.158-170. Also, C. Rollyson and L. Paddock, Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon, W. W. Norton, 2000, pp.45-50 and Reborn: Journals and Notebooks 1947-1963, ed. D. Rieff, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, pp.188-189.
  6. ^ See C. Rollyson and L. Paddock, ''Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon, W. W. Norton, 2000, pp.51-52.
  7. ^ See 'An Emigrant of Thought', interview with Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber in Conversations with Susan Sontag, ed. L. Poague, Univ. of Mississippi Press, 1995, pp.143-164
  8. ^ See C. Rollyson and L. Paddock, Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon', W. W. Norton, 2000, p.38'.
  9. ^ See Susan Sontag, Reborn: Journals and Notebooks 1947-1963, ed. D. Rieff, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, p.144.
  10. ^ "findagrave.com". http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Sontag&GSfn=Susan&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=10183501&. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  11. ^ Katie Roiphe. "Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir - David Rieff - Book Review - New York Times". http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/03/books/review/Roiphe-t.html. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  12. ^ See C. Rollyson and L. Paddock, Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon, W. W. Norton, 2000, pp.56-57.
  13. ^ Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin, page 10
  14. ^ Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin, page 3
  15. ^ Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin, page 23
  16. ^ Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin, page 24
  17. ^ Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin, page 24
  18. ^ Christopher Hitchens http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2009/02/hitchens200902 Retrieved on 2 February 2009
  19. ^ Partisan Review, Winter 1967, p. 57.
  20. ^ Carvajal, Doreen (May 27, 2002) "So Whose Words Are They? Susan Sontag Creates a Stir." New York Times Book Review.
  21. ^ "msgr.ca". http://www.msgr.ca/msgr-3/talk_of_the_town_susan_sontag.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  22. ^ Susan Sontag: 'It was so beautiful when H began making love to me', Paul Bignell, The Independent on Sunday, 16 November 2008
  23. ^ Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947-1964, published by Penguin, January 2009
  24. ^ Leo Lerman, "The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman", NY: Knopf, 2007, page 413
  25. ^ Susan Sontag (2006-09-10). "On Self". The New York Times Magazine. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/10/magazine/10sontag.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  26. ^ "books.guardian.co.uk". http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,6000,283623,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  27. ^ Michelangelo Signorile. "Gay Abe, Sapphic Susan; On the difficulties of outing the dead.". New York Press. http://www.nypress.com/article-10920-gay-abe-sapphic-susan.html. 
  28. ^ Cathleen McGuigan, "Through Her Lens", Newsweek, 2 October 2006.
  29. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/fashion/02annie.html?pagewanted=2&sq=annie leibovitz&st=cse&scp=6

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I don't want to express alienation. It isn't what I feel. I'm interested in various kinds of passionate engagement. All my work says be serious, be passionate, wake up.

Susan Sontag (1933-01-162004-12-28) was an American author and activist.

Contents

Sourced

The truth is always something that is told, not something that is known. If there were no speaking or writing, there would be no truth about anything. There would only be what is.
  • Ours is an age which consciously pursues health, and yet only believes in the reality of sickness. The truths we respect are those born of affliction. We measure truth in terms of the cost to the writer in suffering — rather than by the standard of an objective truth to which a writer's words correspond. Each of our truths must have a martyr.
  • The need for truth is not constant; no more than is the need for repose. An idea which is a distortion may have a greater intellectual thrust than the truth; it may better serve the needs of the spirit, which vary. The truth is balance, but the opposite of truth, which is unbalance, may not be a lie.
    • Review of Selected Essays by Simone Weil, The New York Review of Books (1963-02-01)
I believe that we think much more with the instruments provided by our culture than we do with our bodies, and hence the much greater diversity of thought in the world.
Thinking is a form of feeling; feeling is a form of thinking.
  • The truth is always something that is told, not something that is known. If there were no speaking or writing, there would be no truth about anything. There would only be what is.
    • The Benefactor (1963), Ch. 1, p. 1, Farrar, Straus and Giroux ISBN 0-312-42012-9
  • The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean Algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, and Balanchine ballets don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history.
    • Partisan Review (Winter 1967), p. 57
  • Painters and sculptors under the Nazis often depicted the nude, but they were forbidden to show any bodily imperfections. Their nudes look like pictures in physique magazines: pinups which are both sanctimoniously asexual and (in a technical sense) pornographic, for they have the perfection of a fantasy.
    • "Fascinating Fascism" (1974), published in The New York Review of Books (1975-02-06) and reprinted in Sontag's Under the Sign of Saturn (1980), p. 92, ISBN 0312420080
  • In contrast to the asexual chasteness of official communist art, Nazi art is both prurient and idealizing. A utopian aesthetics (physical perfection; identity as a biological given) implies an ideal eroticism: sexuality converted into the magnetism of leaders and the joy of followers. The fascist ideal is to transform sexual energy into a "spiritual" force, for the benefit of the community.
    • "Fascinating Fascism" (1974), published in The New York Review of Books (1975-02-06) and reprinted in Sontag's Under the Sign of Saturn (1980), p. 93
  • Sadomasochism has always been the furthest reach of the sexual experience: when sex becomes most purely sexual, that is, severed from personhood, from relationships, from love. It should not be surprising that it has become attached to Nazi symbolism in recent years. Never before was the relation of masters and slaves so consciously aestheticized. Sade had to make up his theater of punishment and delight from scratch, improvising the decor and costumes and blasphemous rites. Now there is a master scenario available to everyone. The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.
    • "Fascinating Fascism" (1974), published in The New York Review of Books (1975-02-06) and reprinted in Sontag's Under the Sign of Saturn (1980), p. 105
  • Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.
    • Illness As Metaphor (1978), foreword, p. 3, Farrar, Straus and Giroux ISBN 0-374-52073-9
Communism is in itself a variant, the most successful variant, of Fascism. Fascism with a human face.
  • There is a peculiarly modern predilection for psychological explanations of disease, as of everything else. Psychologizing seems to provide control over the experiences and events (like grave illnesses) over which people have in fact little or no control. Psychological understanding undermines the "reality" of a disease. That reality has to be explained. (It really means; or is a symbol of; or must be interpreted so.) For those who live neither with religious consolations about death nor with a sense of death (or of anything else) as natural, death is the obscene mystery, the ultimate affront, the thing that cannot be controlled. It can only be denied. A large part of the popularity and persuasiveness of psychology comes from its being a sublimated spiritualism: a secular, ostensibly scientific way of affirming the primacy of "spirit" over matter.
    • Illness As Metaphor (1978), ch. 7 (pp. 55-56)
  • One of my oldest crusades is against the distinction between thought and feeling... which is really the basis of all anti-intellectual views: the heart and the head, thinking and feeling, fantasy and judgment. We have more or less the same bodies, but very different kinds of thoughts. I believe that we think much more with the instruments provided by our culture than we do with our bodies, and hence the much greater diversity of thought in the world. Thinking is a form of feeling; feeling is a form of thinking.
    • "Susan Sontag: The Rolling Stone Interview" with Jonathan Cott (1978; published 1979-10-04)
It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades.
  • Not only is Fascism (and overt military rule) the probable destiny of all Communist societies — especially when their populations are moved to revolt — but Communism is in itself a variant, the most successful variant, of Fascism. Fascism with a human face.
  • The tide of undecipherable signatures of mutinous adolescents which has washed over and bitten into the facades of monuments and the surface of public vehicles in the city where I live: graffiti as an assertion of disrespect, yes, but most of all simply an assertion... the powerless saying: I'm here, too.
    • "The Pleasure of the Image" (1985) from Writers on Artists edited by Daniel Halpern (1988), p. 98, North Point Press ISBN 0-86547-340-4
  • It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades.
    • AIDS and Its Metaphors, (1989), ch. 4, p. 125, Farrar, Straus and Giroux ISBN 0-312-42013-7
    • Note: AIDS and Its Metaphors was later published in combination with Illness As Metaphor. This combined edition is the one referenced here.
  • Authoritarian political ideologies have a vested interest in promoting fear, a sense of the imminence of takeover by aliens — and real diseases are useful material.
    • AIDS and Its Metaphors, (1989), ch. 6, p. 149
  • The AIDS crisis is evidence of a world in which nothing important is regional, local, limited; in which everything that can circulate does, and every problem is, or is destined to become, worldwide.
    • AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989), p. 180
To me, literature is a calling, even a kind of salvation. It connects me with an enterprise that is over 2,000 years old. What do we have from the past? Art and thought. That's what lasts. That's what continues to feed people and give them an idea of something better...
  • I guess I think I'm writing for people who are smarter than I am, because then I'll be doing something that's worth their time. I'd be very afraid to write from a position where I consciously thought I was smarter than most of my readers.
  • I don't want to express alienation. It isn't what I feel. I'm interested in various kinds of passionate engagement. All my work says be serious, be passionate, wake up.
  • I envy paranoids; they actually feel people are paying attention to them.
    • "Susan Sontag Finds Romance," interview by Leslie Garis, The New York Times (1992-08-02)
  • To me, literature is a calling, even a kind of salvation. It connects me with an enterprise that is over 2,000 years old. What do we have from the past? Art and thought. That's what lasts. That's what continues to feed people and give them an idea of something better. A better state of one's feelings or simply the idea of a silence in one's self that allows one to think or to feel. Which to me is the same.
    • "Susan Sontag Finds Romance," interview by Leslie Garis, The New York Times (1992-08-02)
For Peace. Against War. Who is not? But how can you stop those bent on genocide without making war?
  • Modernist tasks and liberties have stirred up a canny diffidence among painters of the largest accomplishment when pressed to talk about their art. It appears unseemly, or naive, to have much to say about the pictures or to attach to them any explicit "program." No more theories expounding an ideal way of painting. And, as statements wither and with them counter-statements, hardly anything in the way of provocation either. Decorum suggests that artists sound somewhat trapped when being drawn out, and venturing a few cagey glimpses of intention.
    • "About Hodgkin," from Howard Hodgkin Paintings edited by Michael Auping (1995), p. 105, Harry N. Abrams ISBN 0-8109-3433-7
  • The sublimity of color in Hodgkin's pictures can be thought of as, first of all, expressive of gratitude — for the world that resists and survives the ego and its discontents.
    • "About Hodgkin," from Howard Hodgkin Paintings (1995), p. 109
  • Yes, this is Europe. The Europe that did not respond to the Serb shelling of Dubrovnik. Or the three-year siege of Sarajevo. The Europe that let Bosnia die.
    A new definition of Europe: the place where tragedies don't take place. Wars, genocides — that happened here once, but no longer. It's something that happens in Africa. (Or places in Europe that are not "really" Europe. That is, the Balkans.) Again, perhaps I exaggerate. But having spent a good part of three years, from 1993 to 1996, in Sarajevo, it does not seem to me like an exaggeration at all.
Not all violence is equally reprehensible; not all wars are equally unjust.
  • Stop the War and Stop the Genocide, read the banners being waved in the demonstrations in Rome and here in Bari. For Peace. Against War. Who is not? But how can you stop those bent on genocide without making war?
    • "Why Are We in Kosovo?", The New York Times (1999-05-02)
  • Not surprisingly, the Serbs are presenting themselves as the victims. (Clinton equals Hitler, etc.) But it is grotesque to equate the casualties inflicted by the NATO bombing with the mayhem inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people in the last eight years by the Serb programs of ethnic cleansing.
    Not all violence is equally reprehensible; not all wars are equally unjust.
    No forceful response to the violence of a state against peoples who are nominally its own citizens? (Which is what most "wars" are today. Not wars between states.) The principal instances of mass violence in the world today are those committed by governments within their own legally recognized borders. Can we really say there is no response to this?
    • "Why Are We in Kosovo?", The New York Times (1999-05-02)
  • War is a culture, bellicosity is addictive, defeat for a community that imagines itself to be history's eternal victim can be as intoxicating as victory. How long will it take for the Serbs to realize that the Milosevic years have been an unmitigated disaster for Serbia, the net result of Milosevic's policies being the economic and cultural ruin of the entire region, including Serbia, for several generations? Alas, one thing we can be sure of, that will not happen soon.
    • "Why Are We in Kosovo?", The New York Times (1999-05-02)
  • The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards.
  • The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.
    • The New Yorker: Talk of the Town (2001-09-24)
What we're dealing with here is a view of the U.S. as a secular, sinful society that must be humbled, and this has nothing to do with any particular aspect of American policy. In my view, there can be no compromise with such a vision. And, no, I don't think we have brought this upon ourselves, which is of course a view that has been attributed to me.
  • I'll take the American empire any day over the empire of what my pal Chris Hitchens calls "Islamic fascism." I'm not against fighting this enemy — it is an enemy and I'm not a pacifist.
    I think what happened on Sept. 11 was an appalling crime, and I'm astonished that I even have to say that, to reassure people that I feel that way. But I do feel that the Gulf War revisited is not the way to fight this enemy.
  • I'm sickened by the way that the delivery of so-called humanitarian aid is once again being used as a justification -- or cover -- for war.
    • Interview, "The 'Traitor' Fires Back" by David Talbot, Salon.com (2001-10-16)
  • As a secular person, and as a woman, I've always been appalled by the Taliban regime and would dearly like to see them toppled. I was a public critic of the regime long before the war started. But I've been told that the Northern Alliance is absolutely no better when it comes to the issue of women. The crimes against women in Afghanistan are just unthinkable; there's never been anything like it in the history of the world. So of course I would love to see that government overthrown and something less appalling put in its place.
    Do I think bombing is the way to do it? Of course I don't. It's not for me to speculate on this, but there are all sorts of realpolitik outcomes that one can imagine.
    • Interview, "The 'Traitor' Fires Back" by David Talbot, Salon.com (2001-10-16)
  • But just because I am a critic of Israeli policy — and in particular the occupation, simply because it is untenable, it creates a border that cannot be defended — that does not mean I believe the U.S. has brought this terrorism on itself because it supports Israel. I believe bin Laden and his supporters are using this as a pretext. If we were to change our support for Israel overnight, we would not stop these attacks.
    I don't think this is what it's really about.
    I think it truly is a jihad, I think there is such a thing. There are many levels to Islamic rage. But what we're dealing with here is a view of the U.S. as a secular, sinful society that must be humbled, and this has nothing to do with any particular aspect of American policy. In my view, there can be no compromise with such a vision. And, no, I don't think we have brought this upon ourselves, which is of course a view that has been attributed to me.
    • Interview, "The 'Traitor' Fires Back" by David Talbot, Salon.com (2001-10-16)
Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers.
  • I believe that courage is morally neutral. I can well imagine wicked people being brave and good people being timid or afraid. I don't consider it a moral virtue.
    • Interview, "The 'Traitor' Fires Back" by David Talbot, Salon.com (2001-10-16)
  • Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question is what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated. People don't become inured to what they are shown — if that's the right way to describe what happens — because of the quantity of images dumped on them. It is passivity that dulls feeling.
    • Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), p.101, Farrar, Straus and Giroux ISBN 0-374-24858-3
The meaning of these pictures is not just that these acts were performed, but that their perpetrators had no sense that there was anything wrong in what the pictures show.
  • The expression of satisfaction at the acts of torture one is inflicting on helpless, trussed, naked victims is only part of the story. There is the primal satisfaction of being photographed, to which one is more inclined to respond not with a stiff, direct gaze (as in former times) but with glee. The events are in part designed to be photographed. The grin is a grin for the camera. There would be something missing if, after stacking the naked men, you couldn't take a picture of them.
    • "Regarding the Torture of Others," The New York Times (2004-05-23)
  • People do these things to other people. Not just in Nazi concentration camps and in Abu Ghraib when it was run by Saddam Hussein. Americans, too, do them when they have permission. When they are told or made to feel that those over whom they have absolute power deserve to be mistreated, humiliated, tormented. They do them when they are led to believe that the people they are torturing belong to an inferior, despicable race or religion. For the meaning of these pictures is not just that these acts were performed, but that their perpetrators had no sense that there was anything wrong in what the pictures show.
    • "Regarding the Torture of Others" in The New York Times] (2004-05-23)
  • Soldiers now pose, thumbs up, before the atrocities they commit, and send off the pictures to their buddies and family. What is revealed by these photographs is as much the culture of shamelessness as the reigning admiration for unapologetic brutality. Ours is a society in which secrets of private life that, formerly, you would have given nearly anything to conceal, you now clamor to get on a television show to reveal.
    • "Regarding the Torture of Others," The New York Times (2004-05-23)
  • The Bush administration has committed the country to a new, pseudo-religious doctrine of war, endless war — for "the war on terror" is nothing less than that.
    • "Regarding the Torture of Others," The New York Times (2004-05-23)
In my view, the only intelligence worth defending is critical, dialectical, skeptical, desimplifying.
  • The charges against most of the people detained in the prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan being nonexistent — the Red Cross reports that 70 to 90 percent of those being held seem to have committed no crime other than simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught up in some sweep of "suspects" — the principal justification for holding them is "interrogation." Interrogation about what? About anything. Whatever the detainee might know. If interrogation is the point of detaining prisoners indefinitely, then physical coercion, humiliation and torture become inevitable.
    Remember: we are not talking about that rarest of cases, the "ticking time bomb" situation, which is sometimes used as a limiting case that justifies torture of prisoners who have knowledge of an imminent attack. This is general or nonspecific information-gathering, authorized by American military and civilian administrators to learn more of a shadowy empire of evildoers about whom Americans know virtually nothing, in countries about which they are singularly ignorant: in principle, any information at all might be useful. An interrogation that produced no information (whatever information might consist of) would count as a failure.
    • "Regarding the Torture of Others," The New York Times (2004-05-23)
  • We live in a culture in which intelligence is denied relevance altogether, in a search for radical innocence, or is defended as an instrument of authority and repression. In my view, the only intelligence worth defending is critical, dialectical, skeptical, desimplifying.

Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux ISBN 0-312-28086-6
From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art.
  • From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art. We can only quarrel with one or another means of defense. Indeed, we have an obligation to overthrow any means of defending and justifying art which becomes particularly obtuse or onerous or insensitive to contemporary needs and practices.
    This is the case, today, with the very idea of content itself. Whatever it may have been in the past, the idea of content is today mainly a hindrance, a nuisance, a subtle or not so subtle philistinism.
    • "Against Interpretation" (1964), p. 5
  • What the overemphasis on the idea of content entails is the perennial, never consummated project of interpretation. And, conversely, it is the habit of approaching works of art in order to interpret them that sustains the fancy that there really is such a thing as the content of a work of art.
    • "Against Interpretation" (1964), p. 5
The discovery of the good taste of bad taste can be very liberating.
  • Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, conformable.
    • "Against Interpretation" (1964), p. 8
  • In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.
    • "Against Interpretation" (1964), p. 14
  • Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art.
    • "The Imagination of Disaster" from Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966), p. 212
  • The discovery of the good taste of bad taste can be very liberating. The man who insists on high and serious pleasures is depriving himself of pleasure; he continually restricts what he can enjoy; in the constant exercise of his good taste he will eventually price himself out of the market, so to speak. Here Camp taste supervenes upon good taste as a daring and witty hedonism. It makes the man of good taste cheerful, where before he ran the risk of being chronically frustrated. It is good for the digestion.
    • "Notes on 'Camp'" (1964), note 54, p. 291
Art today is a new kind of instrument, an instrument for modifying consciousness and organizing new modes of sensibility.
  • Art today is a new kind of instrument, an instrument for modifying consciousness and organizing new modes of sensibility. And the means for practicing art have been radically extended. ... Painters no longer feel themselves confined to canvas and paint, but employ hair, photographs, wax, sand, bicycle tires, their own toothbrushes and socks. Musicians have reached beyond the sounds of the traditional instruments to use tampered instruments and (usually on tape) synthetic sounds and industrial noises.
    • "One culture and the new sensibility", p. 296

On Photography (1977)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux ISBN 0385267061
The particular qualities and intentions of photographs tend to be swallowed up in the generalized pathos of time past.
The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own.
  • The particular qualities and intentions of photographs tend to be swallowed up in the generalized pathos of time past.
  • Whitman thought he was not abolishing beauty but generalizing it. So, for generations, did the most gifted American photographers, in their polemical pursuit of the trivial and the vulgar. But among American photographers who have matured since World War II, the Whitmanesque mandate to record in its entirety the extravagant candors of actual American experience has gone sour. In photographing dwarfs, you don't get majesty & beauty. You get dwarfs.
    • "America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly", p. 29
  • Evans wanted his photographs to be "literate, authoritative, transcendent." The moral universe of the 1930s being no longer ours, these adjectives are barely creditable today. Nobody demands that photography be literate. Nobody can imagine how it could be authoritative. Nobody understands how anything, least of all a photograph, could be transcendent.
    • "America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly", p. 31
So successful has been the camera's role in beautifying the world that photographs, rather than the world, have become the standard of the beautiful.
  • The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own.
    • "Melancholy Objects", p. 57
  • So successful has been the camera's role in beautifying the world that photographs, rather than the world, have become the standard of the beautiful.
    • "The Heroism of Vision", p. 85
  • The tradition of portrait painting, to embellish or idealize the subject, remains the aim of everyday and of commercial photography, but it has had a much more limited career in photography considered as art. Generally speaking, the honors have gone to the Cordelias.
    • "The Heroism of Vision", p. 105
  • The destiny of photography has taken it far beyond the role to which it was originally thought to be limited: to give more accurate reports on reality (including works of art). Photography is the reality; the real object is often experienced as a letdown.
    • "Photographic Evangels", p. 147
  • Between two fantasy alternatives, that Holbein the Younger had lived long enough to have painted Shakespeare or that a prototype of the camera had been invented early enough to have photographed him, most Bardolators would choose the photograph. This is not just because it would presumably show what Shakespeare really looked like, for even if the photograph were faded, barely legible, a brownish shadow, we would probably still prefer it to another glorious Holbein. Having a photograph of Shakespeare would be like having a nail from the True Cross.
    • "The Image-World", p. 154
  • Reality has come to seem more and more like what we are shown by cameras. It is common now for people to insist upon their experience of a violent event in which they were caught up — a plane crash, a shoot-out, a terrorist bombing — that "it seemed like a movie." This is said, other descriptions seeming insufficient, in order to explain how real it was. While many people in non-industrialized countries still feel apprehensive when being photographed, divining it to be some kind of trespass, an act of disrespect, a sublimated looting of the personality or the culture, people in industrialized countries seek to have their photographs taken — feel that they are images, and are made real by photographs.
    • "The Image-World", p. 161

Frankfurt Book Fair speech (2003)

Speech upon being awarded the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (Peace Prize of the German Book Trade), Frankfurt Book Fair, (2003-10-12)
All modern wars, even when their aims are the traditional ones, such as territorial aggrandizement or the acquisition of scarce resources, are cast as clashes of civilizations — culture wars — with each side claiming the high ground, and characterizing the other as barbaric.
  • All modern wars, even when their aims are the traditional ones, such as territorial aggrandizement or the acquisition of scarce resources, are cast as clashes of civilizations — culture wars — with each side claiming the high ground, and characterizing the other as barbaric. The enemy is invariably a threat to "our way of life," an infidel, a desecrator, a polluter, a defiler of higher or better values. The current war against the very real threat posed by militant Islamic fundamentalism is a particularly clear example.
  • Americans have it right. Europeans are not in an evangelical — or a bellicose — mood.
    Indeed, sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I am not dreaming: that what many people in my own country now hold against Germany, which wreaked such horrors on the world for nearly a century — the new "German problem," as it were — is that Germans are repelled by war; that much of German public opinion is now virtually ... pacifist!
"Old" and "new" are the perennial poles of all feeling and sense of orientation in the world...
  • From "old" Europe's point of view, America seems bent on squandering the admiration — and gratitude — felt by most Europeans. The immense sympathy for the United States in the aftermath of the attack on September 11, 2001 was genuine. (I can testify to its resounding ardor and sincerity in Germany; I was in Berlin at the time.) But what has followed is an increasing estrangement on both sides. The citizens of the richest and most powerful nation in history have to know that America is loved, and envied ... and resented.
We are told we must choose — the old or the new. In fact, we must choose both.
  • It is hard for people not to see the world in polarizing terms ("them" and us") and these terms have in the past strengthened the isolationist theme in American foreign policy as much as they now strengthen the imperialist theme. Americans have got used to thinking of the world in terms of enemies. Enemies are somewhere else, as the fighting is almost always "over there," with Islamic fundamentalism now replacing Russian and Chinese communism as the implacable, furtive menace to "our way of life." And terrorist is a more flexible word than communist. It can unify a larger number of quite different struggles and interests.
  • Americans are constantly extolling "traditions"; litanies to family values are at the center of every politician's discourse. And yet the culture of America is extremely corrosive of family life, indeed of all traditions except those redefined as "identities" that can be accepted as part of larger patterns of distinctiveness, cooperation, and openness to innovation.
  • The United States is a generically religious society. That is, in the United States it's not important which religion you adhere to, as long as you have one.
  • "Old" and "new" are the perennial poles of all feeling and sense of orientation in the world. We cannot do without the old, because in what is old is invested all our past, our wisdom, our memories, our sadness, our sense of realism. We cannot do without faith in the new, because in what is new is invested all our energy, our capacity for optimism, our blind biological yearning, our ability to forget — the healing ability that makes reconciliation possible.
  • We are told we must choose — the old or the new. In fact, we must choose both. What is a life if not a series of negotiations between the old and the new? It seems to me that one should always be seeking to talk oneself out of these stark oppositions.
  • The writer in me distrusts the good citizen, the "intellectual ambassador," the human rights activist — those roles which are mentioned in the citation for this prize, much as I am committed to them. The writer is more skeptical, more self-doubting, than the person who tries to do (and to support) the right thing.
  • Literature is dialogue; responsiveness. Literature might be described as the history of human responsiveness to what is alive and what is moribund as cultures evolve and interact with one another.
    Writers can do something to combat these clichés of our separateness, our difference — for writers are makers, not just transmitters, of myths. Literature offers not only myths but counter-myths, just as life offers counter-experiences — experiences that confound what you thought you thought, or felt, or believed.
  • A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world. That means trying to understand, take in, connect with, what wickedness human beings are capable of; and not be corrupted — made cynical, superficial — by this understanding.
  • To have access to literature, world literature, was to escape the prison of national vanity, of philistinism, of compulsory provincialism, of inane schooling, of imperfect destinies and bad luck. Literature was the passport to enter a larger life; that is, the zone of freedom.
    Literature was freedom. Especially in a time in which the values of reading and inwardness are so strenuously challenged, literature is freedom.
  • “The cultural distance traversed in just a few years, between 1967 and 1972, is on its way to shifting once more.”

Misattributed

  • Styles change, style doesn't.
    • Styles, like everything else, change. Style doesn't. - Linda Ellerbee, Move On: Adventures in the Real World (1991), p. 35 G.P. Putnam's Sons ISBN 0399136231

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