Memorial Lecture DJU 2008

Death, Hope and Heroic Medicine

David Rieff, writer and journalist
Moderator: Ivan Krastev

David Rieff is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine. He is the author of seven previous books on immigration, international conflict, and humanitarianism, including the acclaimed At the Point of a Gun: Democratic Dreams and Armed InterventionA Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis; and Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West. He lives in New York City.

He's been a literary editor, a journalist and is now a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research, a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a board member of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and a board member of the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute.

In Swimming in a Sea of Death, Rieff wrestles with how to be a dutiful son to his dying mother while being true to himself. It's a remarkably unsentimental account. There's no gushing between mother and son or deathbed reconciliations. This is not a portrait of Rieff's relationship with Sontag, though at one point he refers to their "strained and at times very difficult" relations. It is a book about dying, grieving and what it means to survive the death of a loved one. His new book, is very much rooted in his position as the only son of writer Susan Sontag.

Its subtitle is 'A Son's Memoir' and it concerns his mother's final experience of cancer -- a disease she had overcome three times before.

Susan Sontag was a novelist and an essayist and a writer of non-fiction books like On Photography, Regarding the Pain of Others, Illness As Metaphor, and Aids and Its Metaphors.

Memorial Lectures DJU