Susan Sontag's Biography
The English polymath, Jonathan Miller, once described Susan Sontag as "probably the most intelligent woman in America."
Sontag grew up in Tucson, Arizona and attended high school in Los Angeles. After which she studied at the Universities of Chicago (which she entered at 15), Harvard and Saint Anne's College, Oxford.
In 1963, Susan Sontag was an experimental novelist, writing The Benefactor, which included this thought in Chapter 1:
"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."
In the 1960s and 1970s, however, she established her main reputation as a cultural critic. Important works included: Against Interpretation (1966), On Photography (1976) and Illness as a Metaphor (1978).
This last book dealt with cancer but, in 1989, Susan Sontag revised it and it became AIDS and its Metaphors.
After a 1968 visit to Vietnam, Sontag criticised America's involvement in Indochina. Much later she would cause controversy with her article in the New Yorker that expounded her view that the reaction to 9/11 was jingoistic and fatuous. Although published 6 days after the tragedy, it was written only 35 hours later and was an immediate response to the succession of media and political figures that she saw on television who reacted, she felt, in terms of cliches, rather than with an endeavour to understand.
In later years, Susan Sontag started writing novels again including The Volcano Lover (1992) and In America (2000).
From 1993 to 1996 Susan Sontag spent a lot of her time in Sarajevo where she was made an honorary citizen.
Susan Sontag seemed to be able to upset both the left and the right with her fearless thinking that was based on intellect and not shackled by political correctness or any attempt at popularity.
Back to Top