Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

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A brilliant, clear-eyed new consideration of the visual representation of violence in our culture--its ubiquity, meanings, and effects

Watching the evening news offers constant evidence of atrocity--a daily commonplace in our "society of spectacle." But are viewers inured -or incited--to violence by the daily depiction of cruelty and horror? Is the viewer's perception of reality eroded by the universal availability of imagery intended to shock?

In her first full-scale investigation of the role of imagery in our culture since her now-classic book On Photography defined the terms of the debate twenty-five years ago, Susan Sontag cuts through circular arguments about how pictures can inspire dissent or foster violence as she takes a fresh look at the representation of atrocity--from Goya's The Disasters of War to photographs of the American Civil War, lynchings of blacks in the South, and Dachau and Auschwitz to contemporary horrific images of Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and New York City on September 11, 2001.

As John Berger wrote when On Photography was first published, "All future discussions or analysis of the role of photography in the affluent mass-media societies is now bound to begin with her book." Sontag's new book, a startling reappraisal of the intersection of "information", "news," "art," and politics in the contemporary depiction of war and disaster, will be equally essential. It will forever alter our thinking about the uses and meanings of images in our world.


About Susan Sontag

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Susan Sontag (1933-2004) was the author of numerous works of non-fiction, including the groundbreaking collection of essays Against Interpretation (FSG, 1966), and of four novels, including In America (FSG, 2000), which won the National Book Award.
Published October 1, 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 146 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference, History. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Sontag reviews and explores this old question, and her answer, though without doubt the right one—“Let the atrocious images haunt us”—leads her to unexpected banalities (“There is simply too much injustice in the world”) and an unfocused ending that all but randomly touches on great matters—wheth...

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The Guardian

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Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag Hamish Hamilton £12.99, pp128 This is Susan Sontag's second book on photography and, like the first, published in 1977, it contains no photographs.

Aug 03 2003 | Read Full Review of Regarding the Pain of Others

Arts Fuse

The controversy over whether images of American POWs held by Iraqi forces should be broadcast on television testifies to the timeliness of Susan Sontag’s book “Regarding the Pain of Others.” In it, she asks whether graphic images of atrocity and slaughter lose their shock effect over time.

Mar 25 2003 | Read Full Review of Regarding the Pain of Others

Project MUSE

(War Against War!), a book of photographs from the First World War that was deemed unpublishable by German censors while the war was being fought because of the horror the photos portray, including close-ups of soldiers with difficult-to-look-at gaping facial wounds.

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For all her learning, Sontag is remarkably blunt and accessible, and it requires little imagination to see the relevance this book has for partisans of creative nonfiction.

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