Susan Sontag, Writer, Philosopher, Political Activist

By January 16, 2019 Authors

Susan Sontag (January 16th, 1933 – December 28th, 2004) was an American writer, philosopher and political activist known among readers for her essays and nonfiction works.

Born Susan Rosenblatt in New York City to Jewish parents of Lithuanian and Polish descent. When Susan was five years old her father died and several years later her mother married a US Army Captain, Nathan Sontag, giving Susan the name we remember her by. Despite being raised by Jewish parents, Sontag stated that she did not have a religious upbringing and was in her 20s before she entered a synagogue.

By her own reckoning Susan had an unhappy childhood and found solace in literature. After graduating from high school, she attended the Univercity of California, Berkeley but soon transferred to the University of Chicago where she studied philosophy, ancient history and literature, she graduated aged 18 and in 1951 her work appeared in print for the first time in the winter issue of the Chicago Review.

Sontag married at 17 after a courtship of just ten days, her marriage to writer Philip Rieff lasted eight years. In the 1960s she quit university teaching to take up freelance writing full time. During her life, Sontag was left leaning and an outspoken social commentator, involved in issues such as the Vietnam War, the Siege of Sarajevo, AIDS and illness, human rights and communism.

Despite being mostly known for her nonfiction works, she primarily thought of herself as a novelist but it was through her essays that she gained fame and notoriety. Her best known works are Notes on Camp, On Photography, and In America.

Sontag died in New York City aged 71 from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome. Many of her obituaries failed to mention her significant same-sex relationships, despite Sontag being open about her bisexuality during her life.

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