Friday, December 16, 2011

In memoriam: Christopher Hitchens

Writer, journalist, book lover, renaissance man, Christopher Hitchens passed away yesterday at age 62, after a battle with esophageal cancer

Often controversial, Mr Hitchens never minced his words and would not self-censor for the sake of political correctness. Everybody, and every subject, was fair game, from Henry Kissinger to Mother Theresa. Even religion.

It would be impossible, given his body of work, to agree with everything the man wrote; for me, his apparent volte-face on Iraq following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, after years of taking up the Palestinian cause alongside the likes of his friend Edward Said (whom he still does not spare in his memoir, Hitch-22), was one such occasion where we parted ways ideologically (not that he was alone, as another inspiration of mine, Michael Ignatieff, made a similar U-turn).

The occasional disagreement notwithstanding, Mr Hitchens served as a tremendous inspiration on my career as a journalist. The breadth of his knowledge (there isn’t a book he doesn’t seem to have read; his collection of essays, Arguably, makes that pretty clear) and the sheer musicality of his writing soared to such heights as I cannot ever hope to achieve, though both remain, fixed high above, as a reflection of what I aspire to. (Some critics of my writing style, which tends to favor long, complex sentences, should know that Mr Hitchens shares some of the blame. He is also partly to blame for the piles of books that occupy a lot of floor space at my house.) 

Whether one liked or disliked him — and there are plenty in both camps — Mr Hitchens’ departure is a great loss to journalism, literature, and all of us who continually strive to make sense of this complex, mad world of ours.

I wish I could write something better to do the man justice, but this is all I can summon for the moment. Cheers, Mr Hitchens.


Michael Fagan said...

I first read him in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then onwards. His public displays of contempt for the diseased wing of the Left were always toastworthy (e.g. in his debate with that detestable little imp Galloway). And, similarly, he was one of the few people on the Left who would (and could) describe in detail the faults of the utterly rotten Clintons without flinching.

He never publicly renounced the Left however (the social-democratic view of the State), and in this respect therefore he remained a reactionary as the Left continued to push for the expansion of the State in the West. This is an unforgiveable fault for a writer of his skill and standing. In the last few years, his "comrades" would often softball him with an intellectual indulgence which was cringe-worthy. He in turn, indulged them in some of their worst stupidities.

His good stuff was very good, pity there wasn't more of it.

Michael Fagan said...


The force of that interview segment is overpowering when you consider those unmentionables of Clinton's rule he does not go into directly, for example that episode in early 1993 concerning the death of a certain chief counsel which Ambrose Evans Pritchard covered at the time. But note what Hitchens says of Clinton: "there's nothing you wouldn't put past him".