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Regarding the Pain of Others
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About the Author

Susan Sontag is the author of four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In America, which won the 2000 National Book Award for fiction; a collection of stories, I, etcetera; several plays, including Alice in Bed; and five works of nonfiction, among them Against Interpretation and On Photography, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. Her books are translated into thirty-two languages. In 2001, she was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the body of her work, and she received the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2003.

Reviews

Twenty-six years after the publication of her influential collection of essays On Photography (1977), Sontag (In America) reconsiders ideas that are "now fast approaching the status of platitudes," especially the view that our capacity to respond to images of war and atrocity is being dulled by "the relentless diffusion of vulgar and appalling images" in our rapaciously media-driven culture. Sontag opens by describing Virginia Woolf's essay on the roots of war, "Three Guineas," in which Woolf described a set of gruesome photographs of mutilated bodies and buildings destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Woolf wondered if there truly can be a "we" between man and woman in matters of war. Sontag sets out to reopen and enlarge the question. "No `we' should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people's pain," she writes. The "we" that Sontag has come to be much more aware of in the decades since On Photography is the world of the rich. She has come to doubt her youthful contention that repeated exposure to images of suffering necessarily shrivels sympathy, and she doubts even more the radical yet influential spin that others put on this critique-that reality itself has become a spectacle. "To speak of reality becoming a spectacle... universalizes the viewing habits of a small, educated population living in the rich part of the world...." Sontag reminds us that sincerity can turn a mere spectator into a witness, and that it is the heart rather than fancy rhetoric that can lead the mind to understanding. (Mar.) FYI: In a letter published in the January 13, 2003, issue of the New Yorker, Woolf scholar Jane Marcus asserts that Woolf never published the horrible war photos that she described-they appeared only in later editions of her antiwar essay. Instead, Woolf substituted images of a general, an archbishop, a judge-wordlessly insisting that her readers constantly consider the men of power who make wars. Marcus assumes that Sontag was drawing her conclusions from a later edition without realizing that she was crying Woolf. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

The impact of violent images: Sontag's first full-length work on imagery since her acclaimed On Photography 25 years ago. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Wise and somber. . .Sontag's closing words acknowledge that there are realities which no picture can convey." --Los Angeles Times Book Review "The history of sensibility in a culture shaped by the mechanical reproduction of imagery....has always been one of the guiding preoccupations of her best work, from Against Interpretation to The Volcano Lover....Regarding the Pain of Others invites, and rewards, more than one reading." --Newsday "For 30 years, Susan Sontag has been challenging an entire generation to think about the things that frighten us most: war, disease, death. Her books illuminate without simplifying, complicate without obfuscating, and insist above all that to ignore what threatens us is both irresponsible and dangerous." --O, The Oprah Magazine "A timely meditation on politics and ethics. . .extraordinary . . .Sontag's insight and erudition are profound." --The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Regarding the Pain of Others bristles with a sense of commitment--to seeing the world as it is, to worrying about the ways it is represented, even to making some gesture in the direction of changing it. . .the performance is thrilling to witness." --The New York Times Magazine "A fiercely challenging book. . .immensely thought-provoking." --The Christian Science Monitor

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