Writer Susan Sontag Dies at Age 71

Writer Susan Sontag Dies at Age 71 (Reuters)

Author Susan Sontag, an almost lone voice of intellectual opposition to U.S. policies after the Sept. 11 attacks, died on Tuesday at age 71 at a New York cancer hospital. Sontag, who had suffered from leukemia for some time, was known for wide-ranging interests that included everything from French existentialist writers to ballet to photography to politics. “I can confirm she passed away this morning,” a spokeswoman at New York’s Sloan Kettering hospital said but declined to give any more details.

Sontag was the author of 17 books and a lifelong human rights activist, and her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. Among her best known works was a 1964 study of homosexual aesthetics called “Notes on Camp.”

More recently Sontag has been an outspoken critic of President Bush over his response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and particularly the U.S.-led war in Iraq. She ignited a firestorm of criticism when she declared that the Sept. 11 attacks were not a “cowardly attack” on civilization but “an act undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions.”

So far as I can recall, I’ve never read one of Sontag’s books. And I certainly don’t agree with her politics. Still, her work had a major impact and it’s sad to die at the relatively young age of 71, especially from a brutal illness.

Update: Laurence Simon has, as his readers have come to expect, a somewhat less fuzzy take.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. bryan says:

    1. 71 is not “young” by any definition except that of people who are 100. It may be below average for women, but it is not “young.”

    2. Sontag was most definitely NOT an “almost lone voice of intellectual dissent” following 9/11. This is an example of revisionist history.

  2. James Joyner says:

    1. It’s quite a bit below adult life expectancy for American women nowadays. Women expect to live to nearly 80–and those reaching 65 can expect to live nearly 20 more years, according to the CDC.

    2. True.

  3. anon says:

    There are few deaths that can make me smile, but this is one of them.

  4. All across Manhattan, elitist liberals go silent upon hearing of the death of Susan Sontag. They are calculating how much Sontag’s apartment must be going for. And then they whip out their cell phones to call their real estate brokers.

  5. ken says:

    “There are few deaths that can make me smile, but this is one of them.”

    Yikes, what a sicko.

  6. Sicko says:

    So Ken, why can’t someone be happy that the person who wrote:

    “The white race is the cancer of human history.”

    I’m sure if someone said that about the black race you would be the first to call for his or her head.

    As for me, I don’t agree with anon – I wished she was still living so she could suffer longer from her cancer.

  7. Trippin says:

    I wish I could say “I’m sorry” about Susan Sontag’s death, but I’d rather be honest about it. So I’ll just have to keep wishing …

  8. Nein Juden says:

    Though death can be sad to many, the loss of a hateful person, such as one who irrationally hates white people, is sometimes not at a cause for sorrow at all.