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At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches Hardcover – March 6, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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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From Booklist

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 Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374100721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374100728
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Sontag was born in Manhattan in 1933 and studied at the universities of Chicago, Harvard and Oxford. She is the author of four novels, a collection of stories, several plays, and six books of essays, among them Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. Her books are translated into thirty-two languages. In 2001 she was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the body of her work, and in 2003 she received the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. She died in December 2004.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Charlus on March 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading this collection of essays is an exhilarating experience for anyone who cares about the ethical value of literature, as Sontag herself would say, the "seriousness" of literature. For Sontag was nothing if not "serious". This is not to say humorless, but always fully engaged, grappling with issues that she would return to time and again if her views changed or to clarify a point.

These issues, exemplified by this sterling collection of essays, range from the political to the moral to the literary (she would probably say the latter encompasses the former two). While her outspokeness frequently won her enemies, and her bluntness can be seen at times as insensitive, she was always looking inward to create a public person that she could admire, a strenuous egotism.

Readers of this volume can find her championing writers she feels have been neglected, criticizing the United States foreign policies and most notoriously, evaluating the attacks of 9/11 in yet further clarifications of her opinions.

The loss of this woman is incalculable; even when one disagrees with her(and at some points I am sure you will) you will never fail to find her challenging you to define your own point of view. Her aphorisms expand in widening concentric circles of thought, broadening your vistas with clarity and compassion.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on April 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Susan Sontag was one of the most insightful and intelligent essayists of the last century. Her death is a tremendous loss to American Arts and Letters. At the Same Time is a collection of postumously published essays and speeches from the last few years. The collection reads like much of her work: articulate, precise, and always intellectually and morally "serious." I particularly liked her essay on Dostoyevsky and on translation, her clarity and depth of thought are truly reminiscent of Walter Benjamin here. I found her speeches a bit dry and contrived, not the form she's most comfortable in clearly. As always, she champions a number of neglected works of literature, one Russian, one American. Additionally, you will find excellent essays on 9/11 and the horrible events that unfolded in Iraq. Sontag's indignation is appropriate and timely.

Not a collection that is likely to eclipse Against Interpretation or Under the Sign of Saturn, but definitely worthwhile for all readers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Schweizer VINE VOICE on July 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Well, Sontag would never have been given the chaired Professorship of Fun at Cornell or Duke or John Hopkins. American intellectuals have left her behind, along with Gore Vidal and Edmund Wilson. Sontag took literature seriously, in contrast with those who see the enterprise of literary creativity as no better than other forms of expressions such as comic books and pornography. Instead, Sontag hangs with the likes of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, the serious Germans, of darker times, Nazi times, when the going was good, if you took literature seriously. These essays are not classics; they are occasional pieces, placed together with acceptance speeches and several pieces of journalism written in response to 9/11. In old age, Sontag became insufferably arrogant, a snob's snob, given to calling people stupid, and falling for that absolutely deadly conceit of the New York intellectual, namely, the belief that people living outside Manhattan are backward and ignorant. Sontag seems to have been preoccupied by thoughts of cancer and war for a good twenty years and this makes her unusually grave for an American, perhaps unique among American feminists whose pursuit of status and sexual pleasure distract them from bigger topics. Sontag, ever the European, stayed with her grim task, like the Marxists in New York during the forties who stuck with their studies of Nazi Germany and returned home as fast as they could once the war was over. She's always been more interested in knowing what makes the world tick than in learning how to get off. All of this in the end has resulted in a refined bitterness, a remarkably narrow literary scope, and a great moral passion. Sontag is very good on the subject of "the war on terror." Her writings, however brief, on torture are very sharp.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This collection of essays covers material prepared late in Susan Sontag's career. The piece on Leonid Tsypkin, an unheralded, virtually unpublished, Soviet writer, entitled 'Living Dostoyevsky' is very fine. Tsypkin's last work, a novel, was published in America seven days before he died of a heart attack. The title of the novel is SUMMER IN BADEN-BADEN. Tyspkin took care to get his facts right. A source of Tsypkin on Dostoyevsky was Leonid Grossman, (1888-1965). Tsypkin's great pssion was Kafka.

Victor Serge's novel, THE CASE OF COMRADE TULAYEV,was published a year after Victor Serge's death. He was a valiant dissident Communist. Sontag believed Victor Serge resembled Simone Weil in his rectitude. For Serge, fiction was truth. The truths of a novel differ from the truths of an historian. Trotsky accused Victor Serge of being more anarchist than Marxist.

Susan Sontag was not in new York City at the time of nine eleven. She was in Berlin. Returning, she read the heartbreaking biographies of the victims appearing in the NEW YORK TIMES. She believed the principal figures in leadership positions were at a linguistic loss. She rejected prevalent models of reaction to the event that we are at war or our civilization is superior. A year after the event the Bush administration decreed that the U.S. was at war, but it was a war without end.

Sontag believed that not calling what took place at Abu Graib torture was as outrageous as not calling what took place in Rwanda between the Tutsis and the Hutus genocide. The photographs represented the fundamental corruption of the occupation.

The essay entitled 'The Conscience of Words' notes that to speak truthfully about literature it is necessary to talk about paradox.
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