From Publishers Weekly
Literature and politics are inextricably intertwined and unified by moral purpose in this powerful collection of pieces (a couple not previously published in English or at all) by iconic critic and novelist Sontag (Regarding the Pain of Others
), who died in 2004. Sontag was a dedicated champion of literature in translation, and the book opens with several introductions to such works, led off by a meditation on beauty. The section might have been called "Art and Ardor," so laced is it with artistic passion, both Sontag's own and that of the writers she celebrates, such as Leonid Tsypkin and Anna Banti. Part three contains speeches Sontag gave in accepting the Jerusalem Prize and other awards, and honoring others whose moral courage she admired. But most striking is to re-read the pieces she wrote in the wake of 9/11 and the Abu Ghraib scandal, which constitute the book's middle section. Sontag's controversial attack on the Bush administration immediately after 9/11 may have been an act of courage or of folly, but from a distance of five years, her critique seems on the mark. Sontag's brilliance as a literary critic, her keen analytical skill and her genius for the searingly apt phrase (like her damning "the photographs are
us" in relation to the Abu Ghraib photos) are all fiercely displayed here. (Mar. 6)
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The world lost a brilliant, passionate, and ethical thinker and writer when Susan Sontag died in December 2004. In his moving foreword to this collection of resonant essays and speeches, Sontag's son, David Rieff, writes that his mother "was interested in everything. Indeed, if I had only one word with which to evoke her, it would be avidity." But for all her arresting insights into photography and other arts, literature was Sontag's true love, and nowhere else has she so directly addressed what literature accomplishes. Sontag was working on this book at the end of her life, and it is a generously personal volume addressing her greatest ardors and gravest concerns. Here is Sontag on beauty, Russian literature, and the art of literary translation. Here, too, are Sontag's clarion writings on Israel, 9/11, and Abu Ghraib. Although Sontag was happiest writing fiction, she never failed to celebrate the work of others or protest injustice and brutality, and in this she was both artist and hero. More posthumous works are promised. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved