In 1978 Susan Sontag published Illness as Metaphor, a classic work described by Newsweek as "one of the most liberating books of its time." A cancer patient herself when she was writing the book, Sontag shows how the metaphors and myths surrounding certain illnesses, especially cancer, add greatly to the suffering of patients and often inhibit them from seeking proper treatment. By demystifying the fantasies surrounding cancer, Sontag shows cancer for what it is—just a disease. Cancer, she argues, is not a curse, not a punishment, and certainly not an embarrassment. She also shows that it is highly curable, if good treatment is followed.
Almost a decade later, with the outbreak of a new, stigmatized disease replete with mystifications and punitive metaphors, Sontag wrote a sequel to Illness as Metaphor, extending the argument of her earlier book to the AIDS pandemic. These two extended essays—now published together, and exclusively, in this volume—have been translated into many languages. Each is a modern-day classic, and each continues to have an enormous influence on the thinking of medical professionals and, above all, on the lives of many thousands of patients and caregivers.