From the Writers & Company Archives: Susan Sontag


Writer Susan Sontag at the Frankfurt Book Fair in central Germany on Oct. 11, 2003 (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

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This summer, the Writers & Company weekly podcast will feature some of the best shows from the show's archives. We hope you'll enjoy this opportunity to hear these programs that haven't been available as a podcast before.

Every week in July and August, CBC Books will bring you the Writers & Company podcast, an encore presentation of those great full-length conversations.

This week's Writers & Company podcast features Eleanor's conversation with American writer and critic Susan Sontag from 2000. At the time, Sontag had recently won the National Book Award for her novel, In America.

This interview originally aired on November 19, 2000.

You can listen to Writers & Company on CBC Radio One every Sunday at 3 p.m. ET and AT; 3:30 p.m. NT; 5 p.m. PT, MT and CT.


Susan Sontag was a writer, an intellectual but not an academic, who was making connections and thinking imaginatively about everything from the moral philosophy of Simone Weil to the pop phenomenon known as "camp." Sontag also wrote about her heroes, mostly European thinkers, such as Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes and Elias Canetti. At the same time, she wrote novels, film scripts and short stories, along with distinctive books about photography, fascism and illness.

Sontag had cancer three times. In the 1970s, she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. In 1998, she again was diagnosed with -- and defeated -- cancer. Finally, in 2004, four years after this conversation with Eleanor Wachtel took place, Sontag was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away on December 28, 2004. Although she didn't discuss her personal experience in her two books on illness, Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, her experiences greatly influenced her work and her view of the world around her.

Sontag believed that "writing is a way of being in the world, a way of being alive, a way of being intense, and it's a way of being connected with things outside yourself." This was how she approached her work, and her life. She discussed this philosophy, her fiction and her health with Eleanor Wachtel. The result is a powerful conversation about the role of intelligence, information, illness and fiction in contemporary society and even though they spoke 12 years ago, it still resonates today. You can listen to the entire interview in the audio player above.

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