In spring 2004, Susan Sontag was diagnosed with the incurable blood cancer. She had a huge appetite for experience, and a wild, extravagant desire to live. Rieff writes movingly about being by her side during that last year and at her death, and about his own contradictory emotions: his guilt both for not consoling her enough, and for somehow colluding with her in her belief that she could beat the disease. Drawing on Sontag’s journals and letters, which Rieff read after her death, and on the writings about the deaths of other great thinkers, Swimming in a Sea of Death provides a vivid portrait of Sontag in the last year of her life and a haunting meditation on mortality.
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