Sontag’s most important critical writings from 1972 to 1980 are collected in Under the Sign of Saturn. One of America’s leading essayists, Sontag’s writings are commentaries on the relation between moral and aesthetic ideas, discussing the works of Antonin Artaud, Leni Riefenstahl, Elias Canetti, Walter Benjamin, and others.
The collection includes a variety of her well-known essays. In “Fascinating Fascism,” Sontag eviscerates Leni Riefenstahl’s attempts to rehabilitate her image after working for Adolf Hitler on propaganda films during World War II. “Approaching Artaud” reflects on the work and influence of french actor, director, and writer Antonin Artaud. The title essay is a study of the life and temperament of Walter Benjamin, who Sontag describes as a sad and lonesome man. The book also includes the essays “On Paul Goodman,” “Syberberg’s Hitler,” “Remembering Barthes,” and “Mind as Passion”.
Susan Sontag’s writings are famously full of intellectual range and depth, and are at turns exhilarating, ominous, disturbing, and beautiful. Under the Sign of Saturn manages to touch on all of these notes and more.
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“No one has written more passionately about Antonin Artaud….Nor has anyone before Sontag taken the pains to demolish so thoroughly Hitler’s favorite moviemaker, Leni Riefenstahl.”