Sontag in Sarajevo

What was at stake in Sarajevo was not only the fate of a people and a country. Sarajevo was a European city—and Europe, David Rieff wrote, “had become a moral category as well as a geographical one.” This category was the liberal idea of the free society: of civilization itself, especially after Auschwitz. The Bosnians knew this and were bewildered that their appeals were met with such indifference. But how could a single person stand in the path of a genocidal army? The question of how to oppose injustice had occupied Susan Sontag since childhood: since she read Les Misérables, since she saw the first pictures of the Holocaust in the bookstore in Santa Monica. Sarajevo offered a chance to put her body on the line for the ideas that had given dignity to her life.

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