Susan Sontag (1933–2004) was a novelist, playwright, filmmaker, and one of the most influential critics of her generation. Her books include Against Interpretation, On Photography, Illness as Metaphor, and The Volcano Lover.

Simone Weil

Simone Weil in Marseilles, early 1940s
The culture-heroes of our liberal bourgeois civilization are anti-liberal and anti-bourgeois; they are writers who are repetitive, obsessive, and impolite, who impress by force—not simply by their tone of personal authority and by their intellectual ardor, but by the sense of acute personal and intellectual extremity. The bigots, the hysterics, the destroyers of the self—these are the writers who bear witness to the fearful polite time in which we live.

In Jerusalem

The writer’s first job is not to have opinions but to tell the truth…and refuse to be an accomplice of lies or misinformation. Literature is the expression of nuance and contrariness against the voices of simplification. The job of the writer is to make it harder to believe the mental …

On Wei Jingsheng

The following remarks were made at the PEN press conference in December 1995 at which Robert Stone read the above statement. I have been in China only two times, neither of them recent. The first time was in the early 1970s, at the end of the Cultural Revolution, when relatively …

Godot Comes to Sarajevo

“Nothing to be done.” “Nista ne moze da se uradi.” —opening line of Waiting for Godot I went to Sarajevo in mid-July to stage a production of Waiting for Godot not so much because I’d always wanted to direct Beckett’s play (although I had), as because it …

AIDS and Its Metaphors

“Plague” is the principal metaphor by which the AIDS epidemic is understood. And because of AIDS, the popular misidentification of cancer as an epidemic, even a plague, seems to be receding: AIDS has helped to divest cancer of much of its aura of shame, of the unspeakable. Plague, from the …

Mind as Passion

Elias Canetti is the author of seven books translated from German into English, each carrying words of praise from famous writers. His work—which includes a novel, a study of the psychology of groups, literary and political essays, three plays, and an autobiography in progress—has never lacked admirers, and yet aside …

Remembering Barthes

Roland Barthes was sixty-four when he died on March 26, but the career was younger than that age suggests, for he was thirty-seven when he published his first book. After the tardy start there were many books, many subjects. One felt that he could generate ideas about anything. Put him …

Eye of the Storm

Wer nicht von dreitausend Jahren Sich weiss Rechenschaft zu geben, Bleib im Dunkeln, unerfahren, Mag von Tag zu Tage leben. (Anyone who cannot give an account to oneself of the past three thousand years remains in darkness, without experience, living from day to day.) —Goethe …