OVERRIDE

Regarding the Pain of Others

Susan Sontag

Picador

National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee
A New York Times Notable Book
A Los Angeles Times Best Book
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book

One of the distinguishing features of modern life is that it supplies countless opportunities for regarding (at a distance, through the medium of photography) horrors taking place throughout the world. Images of atrocities have become, via the little screens of the television and the computer, something of a commonplace. But are viewers inured—or incited—to violence by the depiction of cruelty? Is the viewer's perception of reality eroded by the daily barrage of such images? What does it mean to care about the sufferings of people in faraway zones of conflict?

Susan Sontag's now classic book On Photography defined the terms of this debate twenty-five years ago. Her new book is a profound rethinking of the intersection of "news," art, and understanding in the contemporary depiction of war and disaster. She makes a fresh appraisal of the arguments about how pictures can inspire dissent, foster violence, or create apathy, evoking a long history of the representation of the pain of others—from Goya's The Disasters of War to photographic documents of the American Civil War, lynchings of blacks in the South, the First World War, the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi death camps, and contemporary images from Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Israel, and Palestine, and New York City on September 11, 2001.

This is also a book about how war itself is waged (and understood) in our time, replete with vivid historical examples and a variety of arguments advanced from some unexpected literary sources. Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Edmund Burke, Wordsworth, Baudelaire, and Virginia Woolf all figure in this passionate reflection in the modern understanding of violence and atrocity. It includes as well a stinging attack on the provincialism of media pundits who denigrate the reality of war, and a political understanding of conflict, with glib talk about a new, worldwide "society of spectacle." Just as On Photography challenged how we understand the very condition of being modern, Regarding the Pain of Others will alter our thinking not only about the uses and meaning of images, but about the nature of war, the limits of sympathy, and the obligations of conscience.

REVIEWS

Praise for Regarding the Pain of Others

"Wise and somber. . .Sontag's closing words acknowledge that there are realities which no picture can convey." --Los Angeles Times Book Review

"The history of sensibility in a culture shaped by the mechanical reproduction of imagery....has always been one of the guiding preoccupations of her best work, from Against Interpretation to The Volcano Lover....Regarding the Pain of Others invites, and rewards, more than one reading." --Newsday

"For 30 years, Susan Sontag has been challenging an entire generation to think about the things that frighten us most: war, disease, death. Her books illuminate without simplifying, complicate without obfuscating, and insist above all that to ignore what threatens us is both irresponsible and dangerous." --O, The Oprah Magazine

"A timely meditation on politics and ethics. . .extraordinary . . .Sontag's insight and erudition are profound." --The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Regarding the Pain of Others bristles with a sense of commitment--to seeing the world as it is, to worrying about the ways it is represented, even to making some gesture in the direction of changing it. . .the performance is thrilling to witness." --The New York Times Magazine

"A fiercely challenging book. . .immensely thought-provoking." --The Christian Science Monitor
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Susan Sontag

  • Susan Sontag is the author of four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In America, which won the 2000 National Book Award for fiction; a collection of stories, I, etcetera; several plays, including Alice in Bed; and five works of nonfiction, among them Against Interpretation and On Photography, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. Her books are translated into thirty-two languages. In 2001, she was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the body of her work, and she received the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2003.
  • Susan Sontag Mikhail Lemkhin
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Available Formats and Book Details

Regarding the Pain of Others

Susan Sontag

National Book Critics Circle Awards - Nominee, National Book Critics Circle Awards - Nominee

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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