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Susan Sontag: Death Kit

Following on from The Benefactor, Sontag plunges further into Beckett territory, with her story of Diddy Halton, a New York advertising executive. He is on a train to a conference when the train is stuck in a tunnel. He gets out and possibly murders a railroad workman – we are as in the dark as he as to whether he actually did – he returns to his compartment and to Hester, a young blind woman, who maintains that not only didn’t he murder the man but that he didn’t even leave the compartment. Indeed, as in The Benefactor, we are given a new interpretation, in this case that none of the events actually took place. Sontag has Diddy (and us) pondering the whole (non-)event and its ramifications. Did he leave the compartment? Did he kill the worker? Is the worker even dead? Is the woman he tracks down really the worker’s widow? More to the point, do we care? Diddy is far less interesting and therefore far less sympathetic than Hippolyte of The Benefactor and, at the end, with Diddy looking for his death, we might just feel that it is best that he finds it.

Publishing history

First published 1967 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux