Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag
  • Born: January 16, 1933
  • Died: December 28, 2004
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Novelist, Essayist, Filmmaker

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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. Families, Children & Parenting
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. Human Nature
I'll take the American empire any day over the empire of … "Islamic fascism." I'm not against fighting this enemy — it is an enemy and I'm not a pacifist. War & Peace
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. Foreign Aid
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. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
My America is called Europe. It is my place of dreams. . . . Today the United States isn’t a solution, it’s a danger! . . . Most of the things I like are in Europe. . . I hope Europe will show us a road to follow. Development & Growth
Not all violence is equally reprehensible; not all wars are equally unjust. Justice & Injustice
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. War & Peace
Pornography is a malady to be diagnosed and an occasion for judgment. It's something one is for or against. And taking sides about pornography is hardly like being against aleatoric music or Pop Art, but quite a bit like being for or against legalized abortion or federal aid to parochial schools. Freedom & Liberty
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. Miscellaneous
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. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
The principal instances of mass violence in the world today are those committed by governments within their own legally recognized borders. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
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. Religion & God
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. Religion & God
A family's photograph album is generally about the extended family and, often, is all that remains of it. Families, Children & Parenting
A fiction about soft or easy deaths is part of the mythology of most diseases that are not considered shameful or demeaning.
AIDS obliges people to think of sex as having, possibly, the direst consequences: suicide. Or murder.
AIDS occupies such a large part in our awareness because of what it has been taken to represent. It seems the very model of all the catastrophes privileged populations feel await them.
Although none of the rules for becoming more alive is valid, it is healthy to keep on formulating them.
Ambition, if it feeds at all, does so on the ambition of others.
Any critic is entitled to wrong judgments, of course. But certain lapses of judgment indicate the radical failure of an entire sensibility. Failure
Any important disease whose causality is murky, and for which treatment is ineffectual, tends to be awash in significance.
Anything in history or nature that can be described as changing steadily can be seen as heading toward catastrophe. Nature ;History
As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure.
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.
Books are funny little portable pieces of thought. Humor
'Camp' is a vision of the world in terms of style - but a particular style. It is the love of the exaggerated. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Depression is melancholy minus its charms - the animation, the fits.
Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past, present, and future. Future
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. Death
I do not think white America is committed to granting equality to the American Negro. This is a passionately racist country; it will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Future ;Equality & Equal Opportunity
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. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I envy paranoids; they actually feel people are paying attention to them.
I was not looking for my dreams to interpret my life, but rather for my life to interpret my dreams. Life
In America, the photographer is not simply the person who records the past, but the one who invents it.
In the final analysis, style is art. And art is nothing more or less than various modes of stylized, dehumanized representation. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Intelligence is really a kind of taste: taste in ideas. Intelligence, Spying, Espionage & Covert Operations
Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
It is not altogether wrong to say that there is no such thing as a bad photograph - only less interesting, less relevant, less mysterious ones.
It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades.
It is not the position, but the disposition.
Life is not significant details, illuminated by a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are. Life
Lying is an elementary means of self-defense.
Lying is the most simple form of self-defence.
Making social comment is an artificial place for an artist to start from. If an artist is touched by some social condition, what the artist creates will reflect that, but you can't force it.
Mallarme said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph.
Most people in this society who aren't actively mad are, at best, reformed or potential lunatics. Society
My idea of a writer: someone interested in everything.
Sanity is a cozy lie.
Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech.
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.
Societies need to have one illness which becomes identified with evil, and attaches blame to its victims.
Surrealism is a bourgeois disaffection; that its militants thought it universal is only one of the signs that it is typically bourgeois.
The aim of all commentary on art now should be to make works of art - and, by analogy, our own experience - more, rather than less, real to us. The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The becoming of man is the history of the exhaustion of his possibilities. History
The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own.
The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes. Life
The love of the famous, like all strong passions, is quite abstract. Its intensity can be measured mathematically, and it is independent of persons. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Fame
The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions.
The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.
The past itself, as historical change continues to accelerate, has become the most surreal of subjects - making it possible... to see a new beauty in what is vanishing.
The problems of this world are only truly solved in two ways: by extinction or duplication.
The taste for quotations (and for the juxtaposition of incongruous quotations) is a Surrealist taste.
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. Truth
The truth is balance. However the opposite of truth, which is unbalance, may not be a lie. Truth
To photograph is to confer importance.
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. Time
Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. Travel
Victims suggest innocence. And innocence, by the inexorable logic that governs all relational terms, suggests guilt.
Volume depends precisely on the writer's having been able to sit in a room every day, year after year, alone.
What is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine. Women
What is the most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine. Women
What we need is to use what we have.

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