In the famous American cultural history book “Eden’s Gate” published in 1977, Maurice Dickstein called Owen Howe and another person named Susan Sontag, whom I knew, as the most perceptive literary theories in the United States at that time. Family. “Who is Susan Sontag”? One winter night in 2002, such a question appeared in my mind.
1. The wisest woman in America
I never thought that Susan would get such a comment at the age of 44 at such a young age; I also never thought that she was a woman, and in my impression, a woman who succeeded in the intellectual world But not as much as in the entertainment industry; let alone in the United States, she has long been a household name, a “star”-level intellectual, and over the past 40 years, she has been at the center of public opinion, paying attention to and being paid attention to by the world.
Susan was born in Manhattan on January 16, 1933. She is a woman who has a special fate with books. With her extraordinary diligence, this talented girl entered the world’s top universities as easily as entering her own room. She was admitted at the age of 15. The University of California, Berkeley, transferred to the University of Chicago a year later, and then left his own footprints in Harvard University, Oxford University and Paris University. Around 1960, Susan became active in the New York literary world. In 1963, she published her first novel “The Benefactor”, which won the appreciation of Hannah Arendt.
In 1966, Susan became popular with her critical anthology “Against Interpretation”. Since then, almost every publication of her anthology has become a major event in the European and American cultural circles. Literature, film, photography, science fiction, and even contemporary pop music are all subjects of Susan’s witty and passionate commentary. Of course, in her “spare” time, Susan did not forget her old line of work. Her novel “Volcano Lover” in 1992 entered the US bestseller list; in 2000, her novel “In America” won the National Book Award. In 2001 and 2003, she also took home the Jerusalem International Literature Prize and the German Book Industry Peace Prize respectively.
With sharp and profound words, Susan has earned an exciting title: “America’s Smartest Woman”. Although many people have mastered all kinds of rich knowledge, wisdom is only a temperament that only a few people can possess. Susan is not a simple writer, otherwise the “wisdom” hat cannot be worn on her head, making her world-renowned. The main thing is his harsh words and sharp remarks. Female writers can succeed in writing novels by virtue of their charm and delicacy, but critics, regardless of gender, need a sharp-edged arrogance. This may be the reason why women are rarely seen in the criticism industry. Having fought in the discourse field dominated by men for a long time, Susan has become increasingly fierce in her thoughts, but she is still elegant and beautiful in appearance.
I have seen photos of Susan when she was around 30 years old, and if the photos are not fake, then in good conscience, she was a very photogenic woman when she was young. She has long fluffy hair, clear outlines, clear facial lines, with a hint of masculine heroism, and her smiling, soft and smooth mouth curve shows the unique charm of women, especially her His eyes are bright, confident and pure, without the slightest dimness, gloom and trance, which makes people feel heartbroken.
Susan isn’t the prettiest woman in America, but the connection to her extraordinary intelligence makes you wonder how unfair God has been to other women. A scholar once listened to Susan’s lecture and sighed that I had a blind admiration for Sontag. After listening to her lecture, the word “blind” can be cancelled. She really is a world-class person. top scholars.
Susan was already famous when she was 30 years old. Think about how different a young and fashionable beauty, amazingly smart, good at telling stories and commenting on current affairs, is different from those entertainment stars who rely on their appearance alone. Therefore, she not only won the admiration of men, but also gained their “precious” respect. Many men tore off the Hollywood actress poster by the bedside, replaced her with a picture, and regarded her as their dream lover. The reporters looked ecstatic as she stood at the airport, dressed in simple, casual attire, pointing the way. The appearance of Susan has changed the aesthetics of the world. Susan said that people’s judgment of women depends largely on their appearance, but people’s love for Susan depends on her soul; Susan said that women don’t have to be smart, Cleverness makes people feel inappropriate, but it is cleverness that makes Susan the “enemy” of the United States and the pride of the United States.
Second, the proud heart
Susan did not stop her wit in the construction of words. In that case, she would be a good literati at best, not a real intellectual. According to Susan’s logic, intellectuals are literati, but literati are not necessarily intellectuals. A person becomes an intellectual because his or her words and actions show integrity and responsibility. Therefore, for literati, silence may be a virtue, but for intellectuals, silence is a sin; for literati, being candid may seem superfluous, but for intellectuals, being candid is a duty. Along with Simon Beauvoir and Hannah Arendt, Susan is known as the “new intellectual” of the contemporary Western world, and is also known as “the conscience of the American public”.
I used to think that there are no real intellectuals in the United States, because intellectuals are born for freedom and are born in places where freedom is lacking. The United States is a land of freedom and democracy, and there is no soil for intellectuals to grow. But Susan changed my opinion. Susan said that the United States has the most powerful tradition of oppressing intellectuals in the world, not to mention that the freedom of the United States is based on the defiance of the freedom of non-Americans, and the democracy of the United States is based on the tyranny of the world. The premise is that the world is still an unjust world, and most of the eye-catching unjust events are related to the United States in one way or another. Therefore, the United States does not produce intellectuals. Once they are born, they are An intellectual who transcends national borders and has a human mind.
A true intellectual should have both arrogance and a Buddhist heart. What is arrogance? Gorky once said: Telling the truth and the truth is the most difficult art in all arts, so arrogance is the adherence to the truth and the revealing of the truth; what is the Buddha’s mind? Berdyaev once said: When someone says that his soul is injured due to human suffering, intellectuals are born, so the Buddha’s heart is the compassion for suffering and the comfort of suffering.
Susan has an unabashed “beautiful mouth”. In May 2001, she won the biennial Jerusalem International Prize for Literature, but in a speech to the Israelis entitled “The Conscience of the Word”, she pointed out that there would be no peace unless the Israelis quit the Palestinian lands they occupied. caused the outrage of the Israeli mainstream media. After the “9.11” incident, Susan wrote a book in The New Yorker, pointing out that this was the result of America’s self-inflicted blame, and as a result, she became the target of public criticism and was even denounced as a traitor. On May 23, 2004, she published “The Pain of the Other” in the New York Times Magazine, comparing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers to Saddam’s firing squad and the Nazis. Susan says she has a sense of morality, not because she is a writer, but because she is a person. Conservative Americans often scold her for her anachronistic views. The media and the political world regard her as an unreasonable shrew. However, Susan is Susan after all. She speaks with conscience and acts with a sense of justice. People who understand her call her For fearless thinkers and pen-to-gun fighters.
In 1993, Susan, who was denounced as a “shrew”, brought Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot” and four flashlights to Sarajevo, which was burnt by the war. Some people describe it in literature: the flashlight is her anti-war weapon. Caused power outages in theaters, and flashlights were reclaiming light from the war. “Beckett’s play, written 40 years ago, it seems to have been written for Sarajevo, and it seems to be written for Sarajevo,” said Susan, who is putting on a modern play “Waiting for Godot” for people living in fear. , to perpetuate a culture torn by war. Susan knew that culture, serious culture, was an expression of human dignity—and the people of Sarajevo felt they had lost that dignity. At this time, she was not only a compassionate intellectual, but also a tearful woman and a loving mother. Some people criticize this: Is acting in Sarajevo a bit like playing the violin when Rome is on fire, and it seems very contrived? This year, Susan is in her sixtieth year. She has experienced too much honor, disgrace and suffering. She does not need to use this avant-garde way to win the world’s attention. Some people understand Susan’s behavior, saying that she is neither noble nor Not heroic, she just sewed it up with a pair of warm hands when the happiness of the people of Sarajevo was cut off, just like sewing a shirt.
”Waiting for Godot” was staged on August 17, 1993, with 12 candles on the stage. When the messenger announced that Mr. Godot was not coming today and would definitely come tomorrow, Susan’s eyes were stinging with tears, the auditorium was silent, the only sound coming from outside the theatre: a UN armoured personnel carrier rumbled down the street, There was the crackle of snipers’ gunfire.
3. Reading is the first snow in heaven
in 2005. Thanks to a teacher’s generous donation, I read the Chinese translation of Susan’s critical essay “The Key Points”. Her talent and personality also come from her passion for reading and her observation and worry in the process of reading. I think of the wonderful feeling of reading late at night, but I think reading is not easy for Susan, because she has so many intellectual tasks, reading is her sacred business.
Susan reveals the relationship between reading and writing, saying that reading often precedes writing and that the urge to write is almost always triggered by reading, and it is the love of reading that makes her dream of becoming a writer. But not all writers admit it. Susan once talked to V. S. Naipaul about a 19th-century English novel she loved, and she assumed that Naipaul would appreciate it as well as everyone who loves literature. But no, Naipaul hadn’t read the novel, and added solemnly: “Susan, I’m a writer, not a reader.”
Susan has something to say about writers’ refusal to read, citing Virginia Woolf The famous saying “Heaven is continuous, tireless reading” to express his feelings of reading. Susan is sad to find that not only are writers refusing to read, but the general public is getting further and further away from reading. On June 13, 1996, in order to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Borges’ death, Susan wrote a letter to Borges in heaven, expressing her sorrow.
On October 18, 1955, Borges, who was now blind, was appointed director of the National Library, Borges said: “It is a wonderful irony that God gave me books and night at the same time. .” But Borges was as clear as a mirror, because “he has read the books that must be read.” Therefore, he became the wise man of mankind.
Susan regards Borges as her spiritual mentor, and she admits that her age benefited from the traditions created by sages such as Borges, especially from the traditions of literature. Reading books is the best way to pass on human civilization, but Susan complained to Borges about the fate of books, saying that books are dying. Susan worries that if books disappear, history will disappear and humanity will die. Susan’s anxiety is a common ideological subject of postmodern intellectuals, and what they really worry about is the fate of reading, especially the fate of classic literature. In the post-modern society, the human nature of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure has been revealed like never before. The developed network information satisfies the superficial and quickness of the world, but also obliterates the piety of people rubbing the text, the poetry of smelling the book, and the happiness that they have found hard. Reading is a lonely and painful thing. The Internet is too lively, pleasant and relaxing. When people face the Internet, colorful images and various anecdotes distract people’s precious energy and cultivate too many lazy minds.
To use the words of a Chinese poet, I hope this world has no water, no sunshine / No literature / I hope this world has no justice, no books and nobility / So let’s see, is this earth more vicissitudes? Susan assured Borges that she would never give up the National Library and that many people would continue to choose him as their patron and hero. Because Susan likes to read quietly, she also believes that human beings will not give up the defense of the sublime, the pursuit of meaning and the love of poetry.
According to Susan’s son, Susan was found to be suffering from cancer in 1977, the year her name and deeds happened to be written into “Gate of Eden”. After nearly 30 years of fighting against terminal illness with reading, at 7:10 am on December 28, 2004, Susan’s body was taken away by cancer, but her spirit remained on the human train forever, and continued to fly with time. .
The wisest woman in America is gone, and there is another beautiful and wise figure in heaven.