Susan Sontag quotes

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Susan Sontag

Birthdate: 16. January 1933
Date of death: 28. December 2004
Other names: Susan Sontagová, സൂസൻ സൊൻടാഗ്

Susan Sontag was an American writer, filmmaker, philosopher, teacher, and political activist. She mostly wrote essays, but also published novels; she published her first major work, the essay "Notes on 'Camp'", in 1964. Her best-known works include On Photography, Against Interpretation, Styles of Radical Will, The Way We Live Now, Illness as Metaphor, Regarding the Pain of Others, The Volcano Lover, and In America.

Sontag was active in writing and speaking about, or travelling to, areas of conflict, including during the Vietnam War and the Siege of Sarajevo. She wrote extensively about photography, culture and media, AIDS and illness, human rights, and communism and leftist ideology. Although her essays and speeches sometimes drew controversy, she has been described as "one of the most influential critics of her generation." Wikipedia

Works

„A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world.“

—  Susan Sontag

Frankfurt Book Fair speech (2003)
Context: 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.

„Depression is melancholy minus its charms.“

—  Susan Sontag, book Illness as Metaphor

Source: Illness as Metaphor

„Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art.“

—  Susan Sontag

"The Imagination of Disaster" from Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966), p. 212
Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966)

„I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.“

—  Susan Sontag

"Unguided Tour", in The New Yorker (31 October 1977), final lines; also in I, Etcetera (1977)
Context: A curious word, wanderlust. I'm ready to go.
I've already gone. Regretfully, exultantly. A prouder lyricism. It's not Paradise that's lost.
Advice. Move along, let's get cracking, don’t hold me down, he travels fastest who travels alone. Let's get the show on the road. Get up, slugabed. I'm clearing out of here. Get your ass in gear. Sleep faster, we need the pillow.
She's racing, he's stalling.
If I go this fast, I won't see anything. If I slow down —
Everything. — then I won't have seen everything before it disappears.
Everywhere. I've been everywhere. I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.
Land's end. But there's water, O my heart. And salt on my tongue.
The end of the world. This is not the end of the world.

„My library is an archive of longings.“

—  Susan Sontag

Source: As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

„All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.“

—  Susan Sontag, book On Photography

Variant: to take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality, vulnerability, mutability. precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt.
Source: On Photography

„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.“

—  Susan Sontag

Frankfurt Book Fair speech (2003)
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Susan Sontag

"Susan Sontag Finds Romance," interview by Leslie Garis, The New York Times (2 August 1992)
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Susan Sontag

"The Risk Taker" http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/politicsphilosophyandsociety/story/0,,635799,00.html, profile/interview by Gary Younge, The Guardian (19 January 2002)
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Susan Sontag

Frankfurt Book Fair speech (2003)
Context: 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.

„Interpretation is not (as most people assume) an absolute value, a gesture of mind situated in some timeless realm of capabilities.“

—  Susan Sontag

Source: Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966), p. 6
Context: Interpretation is not (as most people assume) an absolute value, a gesture of mind situated in some timeless realm of capabilities. Interpretation must itself be evaluated, within a historical view of human consciousness. In some cultural contexts, interpretation is a liberating act. It is a means of revising, of transvaluing, of escaping the dead past. In other cultural contexts, it is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling.

„Not all violence is equally reprehensible; not all wars are equally unjust.“

—  Susan Sontag

"Why Are We in Kosovo?", The New York Times (2 May 1999)
Context: 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?

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