"At the Same Time" gathers 16 essays and addresses written in the last years of Sontag's life, when her work was being honored on the international stage, that reflect on the personally liberating nature of literature, her deepest commitment, and on political activism and resistance to injustice as an ethical duty.
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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
December 25, 2007
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