The Best Susan Sontag quotes

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In her lifetime, Susan Sontag was many things: a prolific writer and thinker, a fearless public intellectual, and an outspoken activist. She was also one of the most influential figures in the postwar American intelligentsia. Born in New York City in 1933, Sontag was raised by her mother after her father died when she was only five years old. She later attended college at both Berkeley and Harvard before embarking on a career as a writer and critic. Throughout her life, Sontag produced a wealth of essays, novels, plays, and films that sought to engage with the major issues of her time. She died in 2004 at the age of 71.

Discover the most interesting Taste, Writers, Love, Feelings, Writing, Life, Thinking quotes from Susan Sontag, and much more.


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About Susan Sontag

birth of the author

January 16, 1933

death of the author

December 28, 2004

country of the author


education of the author

University Of California, Berkeley University Of Chicago

occupation of the author

Essayist, Filmmaker

date of the author

Years Active:

knownfor of the author

Known For:
Fiction, Essays, Nonfiction


What I really wanted was every kind of life, and the writer’s life seemed the most inclusive. — Susan Sontag

My emotional life: dialectic between craving for privacy and need to submerge myself in a passionate relationship to another. — Susan Sontag

Life is a movie; death is a photograph. — Susan Sontag

I was not lookIng for my dreams to Interpret my lIfe, but rather for my lIfe to Interpret my dreams. — Susan Sontag

life is a movie death is a photograph Susan Sontag quote

One can know worlds one has not experienced, choose a response to life that has never been offered, create an inwardness utterly strong and fruitful. — Susan Sontag

To make your life being a writer, it’s an auto–slavery … you are both the slave and the task–master. — Susan Sontag


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The fear of becoming old is born of the recognition that one is not living now the life that one wishes. It is equivalent to a sense of abusing the present. — Susan Sontag

The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes. — Susan Sontag

Life is not significant details, illuminated by a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are. — Susan Sontag

life is not significant details illuminated by a flash fixed forever photographs are Susan Sontag quote

One cannot use the life to interpret the work. But One can use the work to interpret the life. — Susan Sontag

Result of self–consciousness: audience and actor are the same. I live my life as a spectacle for myself, for my own edification. I live my life but I don’t live in it. The hoarding instinct in human relations. — Susan Sontag

Desire has no history… — Susan Sontag

The becoming of man is the history of the exhaustion of his possibilities. — Susan Sontag


The taste for quotations (and for the juxtaposition of incongruous quotations) is a Surrealist taste. — Susan Sontag

passion paralyzes good taste Susan Sontag quote

Passion paralyzes good taste. — Susan Sontag

Intelligence is really a kind of taste: taste in ideas. — Susan Sontag

Rules of taste enforce structures of power. — Susan Sontag

Try not to live in a linguistic slum. — Susan Sontag


Norman Mailer in his writings is ultimately more concerned with success than with danger; danger is only a means to success. — Susan Sontag

thinking writing are ultimately questions of stamina Susan Sontag quote

Some of the exuberance of my essay–writing has gone because I’m worried about the uses they could serve. — Susan Sontag

Thinking, writing are ultimately questions of stamina. — Susan Sontag

Writing is a little door. Some fantasies, like big pieces of furniture, won’t come through. — Susan Sontag

Writing is a mysterious activity. — Susan Sontag

When you see your 40–page essay turned into a ‘hot tip’ in one paragraph in Newsweek, you get anxious about the way your writing has been used. — Susan Sontag

writing is a little door some fantasies like big pieces of furniture won t come through Susan Sontag quote

The truth is always something that is told, not something that is known. If there were no speaking or writing, there would be no truth about anything. There would only be what is. — Susan Sontag

Talking like touching. Writing like punching somebody. — Susan Sontag

I’m extremely interested in the Russian formalists and have been for many years. I’m more drawn to their writing, which is expressive and literary, than to writing which is extremely academic or jargon–ridden. — Susan Sontag

When you are writing, you are–from society’s point of view–only producing the first version which will then be processed and recycled. — Susan Sontag

If I thought that what I’m doing when I write is expressing myself, I’d junk the typewriter. Writing is a much more complicated activity that that. — Susan Sontag

writing is a mysterious activity Susan Sontag quote

Writing is finally a series of permissions you give yourself to be expressive in certain ways. To leap. To fly. To fail. — Susan Sontag

The only story that seems worth writing is a cry, a shot, a scream. A story should break the reader’s heart. — Susan Sontag

Reading usually precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer. — Susan Sontag

There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work. — Susan Sontag

What I write is smarter than I am. Because I can rewrite it. — Susan Sontag

I don’t write because there’s an audience. I write because there is literature. — Susan Sontag


Surrealism is a bourgeois disaffection; that its militants thought it universal is only one of the signs that it is typically bourgeois. — Susan Sontag

Redundant Thematics

In Susan Sontag Statements


It was not a question of knowledge…but of alertness, a fastidious transcription of what could be thought about something, once it swam into the stream of attention. — Susan Sontag

She felt herself needing more and more sleep. When she awoke in the morning, she thought of when she might lie down again–and when she would sleep. She started going to the movies. — Susan Sontag

Books are funny little portable pieces of thought. — Susan Sontag

books are funny little portable pieces of thought Susan Sontag quote

Can I love someone…and still think/fly? Love is flying, sown, floating. Thought is solitary flight, beating wings. — Susan Sontag

Gide and I have attained such perfect intellectual communion that I experience the appropriate labor pains for every thought he gives birth to! — Susan Sontag

All aesthetic judgment is really cultural evaluation. — Susan Sontag


A great writer has all 4–but you can still be a good writer with only 1 and 2. — Susan Sontag

My idea of a writer: someone interested in everything. — Susan Sontag

a great writer has all 4 but you can still be a good writer with only 1 and 2 Susan Sontag quote

The writer is either a practicing recluse or a delinquent, guilt–ridden one––or both. Usually both. — Susan Sontag

If literature has engaged me as a project, first as a reader, then as a writer, it is as an extension of my sympathies to other selves, other domains, other dreams, other territories. — Susan Sontag

The writer must be four people: 1) The nut, the obsede 2) The moron 3) The stylist 4) The critic. 1 supplies the material; 2 lets it come out; 3 is taste; 4 is intelligence. — Susan Sontag


How much self–love comes in the guise of selfless devotion! — Susan Sontag

Being in Love means being willing to ruin yourself for the other person. — Susan Sontag

how much self love comes in the guise of selfless devotion Susan Sontag quote

Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love. — Susan Sontag

Camp’ is a vision of the world in terms of style–but a particular style. It is the love of the exaggerated. — Susan Sontag

Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world. — Susan Sontag

It hurts to love. It’s like giving yourself to be flayed and knowing that at any moment the other person may just walk off with your skin. — Susan Sontag

The love of the famous, like all strong passions, is quite abstract. Its intensity can be measured mathematically, and it is independent of persons. — Susan Sontag

being in love means being willing to ruin yourself for the other person Susan Sontag quote

What pornography is really about, ultimately, isn’t sex but death. — Susan Sontag

Self–respect. It would make me lovable. And it’s the secret to good sex. — Susan Sontag


Wherever people feel safe (…) they will be indifferent. — Susan Sontag

I like to feel dumb. That’s how I know there’s more in the world than me. — Susan Sontag

I envy paranoids; they actually feel people are paying attention to them. — Susan Sontag

wherever people feel safe they will be indifferent Susan Sontag quote

What, I ask, drives me to disorder? How can I diagnose myself? All I feel, most immediately, is the most anguished need for physical love and mental companionship– — Susan Sontag

The writers or artists I write about are not necessarily those I care most about (Shakespeare is still my favourite writer) but those whose work I feel has been neglected. — Susan Sontag

I don’t want to express alienation. It isn’t what I feel. I’m interested in various kinds of passionate engagement. All my work says be serious, be passionate, wake up. — Susan Sontag

Aids occupies such a large part in our awareness because of what it has been taken to represent. It seems the very model of all the catastrophes privileged populations feel await them. — Susan Sontag

It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades. — Susan Sontag

i like to feel dumb that s how i know there s more in the world than me Susan Sontag quote

SUSAN SONTAG Quotes Take Away

Susan Sontag’s words are as true today as they were when she first penned them down. We hope these quotes have inspired you to think about your own life, and how you can use your unique voice to make a difference in the world. If you’re looking for more inspiration, or want to learn how to turn your passions into a career, check out our courses page. We have classes that can help you start living the life you always dreamed of.

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