June 24, 2007

At the Same Time: Essays & Speeches
Susan Sontag

An Opinion about Opinions -- From "The Conscience of Words," Susan Sontag's May 2000 speech upon receiving The Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society:

The wisdom of literature is quite antithetical to having opinions. "Nothing is my last word about anything," said Henry James. Furnishing opinions, even correct opinions -- whenever asked -- cheapens what novelists and poets do best, which is to sponsor reflectiveness, to pursue complexity.

Information will never replace illumination. But something that sounds like, except that it's better than, information -- I mean the condition of being informed; I mean concrete, specific, detailed, historically dense, first-hand knowledge -- is the indispensable prerequisite for a writer to express opinions in public.

Let the others, the celebrities and the politicians, talk down to us; lie. If being both a writer and a public voice could stand for anything better, it would be that writers would consider the formulation of opinions and judgments to be a difficult responsibility.


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