by Alice Sparberg Alexiou

Remembering Susan Sontag

On December 28 2004, writer Susan Sontag, 71, died of cancer in New York City. Her edgy eloquence combined with her oversized ego made her one of the twentieth century’s most important and infuriating cultural critics. In her many books and essays she tackled a wide range of subjects, among them imperialism (“the white race… is the cancer of human history….”) and the definition of camp (“a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers”). One of Sontag’s most influential works was Illness as Metaphor, a trenchant account of her fight against breast cancer, which she first developed in the 1970s. Sontag was also a human rights activist who unapologetically voiced strong opinions that often contradicted  whatever she’d recently said on the same subject, thereby offending just about everybody at one time or another She visited Israel during the Six-Day War, and in 2001 she received the Jerusalem Prize, Israel’s most prestigious literature award. At the awards ceremony, Sontag criticized Israel and called for the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. 

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