In his upcoming biography about Susan Sontag, author Benjamin Moser lays out convincing evidence that the American critic may have written her ex-husband’s seminal book.
While the Guardian reports that Sontag has long been considered an unofficial co-author of her first husband Philip Rieff’s Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, for years, people have speculated that she was in fact the true author of the book. And yet, when biographer Moser started to write Sontag: Her Life, out in September, he wasn’t fully convinced of the rumor. In a statement to the Guardian, he notes that Sontag was just 17 years old when she married Rieff, and that Freud is “so sophisticated that it hardly seemed possible that she could be the true author.”
Over the course of his research, though, he claims to have uncovered compelling evidence that Sontag wrote the work, which the Guardian hailed as “a book of genuine brilliance on Freud’s cultural importance” upon its publication in 1959. In the course of his research, Moser gained access to Sontag’s estate and spoke to her acquaintances, many of whom spoke to the rumors about Freud. Per the biography, one acquaintance told Moser that “Susan was spending every afternoon rewriting the whole thing from scratch” while she and Rieff were together. Furthermore, in letters from 1958 between Sontag and another friend, the writer admits to relinquishing “all rights on the Freud,” and her friend responded, “I am without consolation … You cannot give your intellectual contribution to another person.”
Moser argues in his biography that, while Rieff certainly contributed research to Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, Sontag is in fact the book’s true author.
“In the course of my research, I discovered that she had indeed written it, only agreeing to sign it over during an acrimonious divorce, in order to keep her ex-husband from taking her child,” Moser said in a statement to the Guardian. “‘It was a blood sacrifice,’ a friend told me.”
The thought that a man would’ve taken credit for his wife’s work — shocking!