Of exemplary lives

on May 25, 2013 with 0 comments » | ,

Long Read for this cloudy Saturday morning -- especially for you, not for me since I have a bunch of things to do and merely found this during a temporary break with just about enough time to send this off to my Kindle.
Susan Sontag (1933–2004) contributed over fifty reviews, articles, and letters to The New York Review between 1963 and 2002. Her review of Simone Weil’s Selected Essays appeared in the first issue in February 196.

 “Of exemplary lives, there are those which invite us to imitate them, and those which we regard from a distance with a mixture of revulsion, pity, and reverence. It is, roughly, the difference between the hero and the saint (if one may use the latter term in an aesthetic, rather than a religious sense). Such a life, absurd in its exaggerations and degree of self-mutilation—like Kleist’s, like Kierkegaard’s—was Simone Weil’s.”
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Also from 1963, this essay by Sontag about the equally exemplary but short life of the amazing Albert Camus, who she writes is..
.. "the ideal husband of contemporary letters. Being a contemporary, he had to traffic in the madmen’s themes: suicide, affectlessness, guilt, absolute terror. But he does so with such an air of reasonableness, mesure, effortlessness, gracious impersonality, as to place him apart from the others. Starting from the premises of a popular nihilism, he moves the reader—solely by the power of his own tranquil voice and tone—to humanist and humanitarian conclusions in no way entailed by his premises. This illogical leaping of the abyss to nihilism is the gift for which readers are grateful to Camus. This is why he evoked feelings or real affection on the part of his readers. Kafka arouses pity and terror, Joyce admiration, Proust and Gide respect, but no modern writer that I can think of, except Camus, has aroused love. His death in 1960 was felt as a personal loss by the whole literate world."

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