“I envy paranoids; they actually feel people are paying attention to them.” (1)
Susan Sontag, one of the most prominent New York intellectuals of her generation, was a writer and political activist, born on 16 January 1933 (she died of leukaemia just two weeks before her 72nd birthday)
When she was fourteen years old, she started to keep a journal and just before dying she called her son David and whispered to him: “You know where the diaries are…”
Her journals, edited by her son David Rieff, were published under the title “Reborn”.
In his introduction he declared that Susan loved diaries and letters, “the more intimate the better”, for this reason he was not inclined to publish them, as they were highly personal documents.
But he knew his mother intended for her journals to be published and had already sold her literary archive to the University of California, Los Angeles, without instructions.
Therefore, he accepted to open her private life to public eyes granting all readers access to the innermost thoughts.
In one of her diary entries, she wrote: “One of the main (social) functions of a journal or diary is precisely to be read furtively by other people, the people (like parents + lovers) about whom one has been cruelly honest only in the journal.” (2)
She filled some 100 notebooks reporting her life and thoughts since adolescence, analysing books, talking about her intellectual ambitions, her struggle to accept her homosexuality, her lesbian relationships.
Her journals chronicle an amazing story, the willed self-creation of an intellect: “In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.” (3)
(1) “Invidio i paranoici; credono realmente che la gente presti loro attenzione.”
(2) “Una delle principali funzioni (sociali) di un diario è proprio quella di essere letto furtivamente da altre persone, persone (come i genitori + gli amanti) su cui si è stati crudelmente onesti solo nel diario. “
(3) ”Nel diario non mi limito a esprimere me stessa più apertamente di quanto potrei fare con un’altra persona; creo me stessa.”
Image: Susan Sontag photographed by her partner Annie Leibovitz in 1991 (Scottish National Portrait Gallery)