35 Susan Sontag Quotes on Art, Writing, and Life

There’s a preview screening of the new HBO documentary Regarding Susan Sontag at MoMA today, before it airs on television on December 8. Sontag’s prose style captivated readers and her assertive critical stance never failed to invite controversy. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the author’s passing. We revisited her journals and books for some of her most thought-provoking quotes on everything from relationships and art to war and pop culture.


On love, sex, and relationships

“It hurts to love. It’s like giving yourself to be flayed and knowing that at any moment the other person may just walk off with your skin.”

“Being in love means being willing to ruin yourself for the other person.”

“Self-respect. It would make me lovable. And it’s the secret to good sex.”

“What is the most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.”

“Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love.”

“Being in love (l’amour fou) a pathological variant of loving. Being in love = addiction, obsession, exclusion of others, insatiable demand for presence, paralysis of other interests and activities. A disease of love, a fever (therefore exalting). One ‘falls’ in love. But this is one disease which, if one must have it, is better to have often rather than infrequently. It’s less mad to fall in love often (less inaccurate for there are many wonderful people in the world) than only two or three times in one’s life. Or maybe it’s better always to be in love with several people at any given time.”

“Whoever invented marriage was an ingenious tormentor. It is an institution committed to the dulling of the feelings. The whole point of marriage is repetition. The best it aims for is the creation of strong, mutual dependencies.”