This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Christopher Hitchens Memoirs

We will be collecting articles posted from various sources as we did yesterday for the collection of obituaries. Please check back often as this will be updated frequently.

Friend of Hitchens remembers his life
Lawrence Krauss
Also see Lawrence's original article for RDFRS remembering Christopher Hitchesn

A lesson from Hitch: When rudeness is called for
Daniel Dennett
The Washington Post

I’ve just been reviewing my experiences with Christopher Hitchens.

He informed me, entertained me, provoked me like nobody else, and I will miss his antic spirit more than I can say. I didn’t know him for long, though I’d been reading his pieces, with mixed reactions, for years. We met in early 2007, and had dinner in Las Vegas, where we were both appearing in an Amazing Randi meeting. He kindled a happy bonfire of discussion that continued intermittently in meetings and emails.

One moment stands out, and it was, in fact, the last time I saw him face to face, in November of 2009, more than two years ago. We were both appearing in a debate as part of the program of Ciudad de las Ideas, an excellent gathering held annually in Puebla, Mexico. (It’s modeled on TED-I call it TED Mex. Go. It’s well worth the visit.) One of the speakers for the other side, the God side, was Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and after our short set pieces, the rebuttals started with the rabbi. We each were allotted four minutes only for rebuttal, and the rabbi launched into a series of outrageous claims trying to besmirch Darwin and evolutionary biology by claiming that Hitler was inspired by Darwin to organize slaughters to ensure the survival of his race. I sat there, dumfounded and appalled, and tried to figure out how best to rebut this obscene misrepresentation when my turn came.

Christopher didn’t wait his turn. “Shame! Shame!” he bellowed, interrupting Boteach in mid-sentence. It worked. Boteach backpedaled, insisting he was only quoting somebody who had thus opined at the time. Christopher had broken the spell, and a particularly noxious spell it was.

Read more

Sam Harris
Sam Harris Blog

The moment it was announced that Christopher Hitchens was sick with cancer, eulogies began spilling into print and from the podium. No one wanted to deny the possibility that he would recover, of course, but neither could we let the admiration we felt for him go unexpressed. It is a cliché to say that he was one of a kind and none can fill his shoes—but Hitch was and none can. In his case not even the most effusive tributes ring hollow. There was simply no one like him.

One of the joys of living in a world filled with stupidity and hypocrisy was to see Hitch respond. That pleasure is now denied us. The problems that drew his attention remain—and so does the record of his brilliance, courage, erudition, and good humor in the face of outrage. But his absence will leave an enormous void in the years to come. Hitch lived an extraordinarily large life. (Read his memoir, Hitch-22, and marvel.) It was too short, to be sure—and one can only imagine what another two decades might have brought out of him—but Hitch produced more fine work, read more books, met more interesting people, and won more arguments than most of us could in several centuries.

I first met Hitch at a dinner at the end of April 2007, just before the release of his remarkable book god is not Great. After a long evening, my wife and I left him standing on the sidewalk in front of his hotel. His book tour was just beginning, and he was scheduled to debate on a panel the next morning. It was well after midnight, but it was evident from his demeanor that his clock had a few hours left to run. I had heard the stories about his ability to burn the candle at both ends, but staggering there alongside him in the glare of a street lamp, I made a mental note of what struck me as a fact of nature—tomorrow’s panel would be a disaster.

I rolled out of bed the following morning, feeling quite wrecked, to see Hitch holding forth on C-SPAN’s Book TV, dressed in the same suit he had been wearing the night before. Needless to say, he was effortlessly lucid and witty—and taking no prisoners. There should be a name for the peculiar cocktail of emotion I then enjoyed: one part astonishment, one part relief, two parts envy; stir. It would not be the last time I drank it in his honor.
Read more

Simon Schama on How His Friend Christopher Hitchens Said Goodbye
Simon Schama
The Daily Beast
Christopher Hitchens confronted death with the same furious bravura that he deployed against purveyors of unreasoned pieties.
The year America was born—1776—was also the year when the great Scottish philosopher David Hume died. More than once during the ordeal of my friend Christopher Hitchens—as he said, less a “battle” with esophageal cancer than an act of “resistance” to the malignancy to which he succumbed on Dec. 15—I have thought of the letter that Adam Smith wrote about his friend Hume and the heroic strength and uncompromising grip on the truth that he showed throughout the illness that killed him. In the letter, Smith recounted how, after a visit with the philosopher, a well-intentioned doctor said he would pass on the news to a mutual friend that Hume—an unrepentant atheist and unflinching rationalist—seemed to be in remarkably good spirits. To which Hume replied, “As I believe you would not choose to tell anything but the truth, tell him that I am dying as fast as my enemies, if I have any, could desire, and as easily and cheerfully as my best friends could desire.”

There were times during Hitch’s illness when cheerfulness must have been entirely beyond reach. But if the radiation burnt him and left him raw, it never turned his wit to ash or melted away the sharpness of his analytical temper. Astoundingly, he went on writing, never self-pityingly, constantly clarifying, brushing away the rubbish of ignorant cant and false consolations with a swish of his bristling broom of reason. It was typical that his last essay for Vanity Fair was less a chronicle of his pain than an attack on Nietzsche’s assertion that “whatever does not kill you makes you stronger.” There was much in what he had endured lately, he insisted, that proved Nietzsche’s aphorism demonstrably false.
Read more

In Memoriam: A.C. Grayling on Christopher Hitchens A.C. Grayling

Editor's Note: Philosopher, author, and BNR columnist  A.C. Grayling sent us these thoughts today on the news of Christopher Hitchens' death at 62.  

Even those who were on the opposite side of any argument from Christopher Hitchens were compelled to admire the sharpness, control, and extraordinary richness of his mind. We sometimes use the word "brilliant" to describe clever people, but rarely does the term apply with such exactness as it does to Hitch's intellectual quality, and also to his writing. I class him among the first rank of essayists in the English language, and am certain that he will be permanently anthologized alongside the likes of Addison, Hazlitt and Gore Vidal. Equally, though, he will be remembered for the causes he espoused -- or perhaps it is better to say: the cause. His cause was liberty: liberty of thought, liberty from the forms of oppression that preachers, demagogues, and tyrants try to exercise over human lives; liberty too from falsehood and ignorance and from all kinds of self-serving failures of integrity and intellectual honesty.

Read more

Christopher Hitchens Remembered
Tributes to the journalist and intellectual from Julian Barnes, Anne Applebaum, James Fenton and others.

Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday at age 62. He will be missed greatly here at Slate, where he wrote the “Fighting Words” column starting in 2002. To honor Hitch, we are collecting tributes from those who knew him best—his friends, colleagues, and fellow writers.

June Thomas, Hitchens’ editor at Slate
Editing Christopher Hitchens, who died Thursday at the age of 62, was the easiest job in journalism. He never filed late—in fact, he was usually early, even when he was clearly very sick—and he managed to make his work seem like a great lark. His weekly e-mails always read the same jaunty way: “Herewith. Hope it serves, As always, Christopher.” READ MORE

Julian Barnes, novelist
In 1980, I published my first novel, in the usual swirl of unjustified hope and justified anxiety. I gave copies to my friends, including some of those I had worked with until recently on the New Statesman. Most of them acknowledged receipt; most attempted to make the encouraging noises the skinless first novelist needs to hear. But there was no response from the Hitch. READ MORE

Jacob Weisberg, Slate Group chairman
Amazing about Hitchens: his generosity to young people. He sought them out and befriended them. He responded when they called with requests to speak at their college, contribute to a symposium, or stand with any oppressed minority. He hated to say no to anything worthwhile, and cared less about getting paid than anyone I've ever known. After doing unaccountable favors for unimportant people, he named them comrades, which meant welcoming them into his circle of solidarity and acting as if they belonged in his home, with cocktails. READ MORE

. . .
Read more

Christopher Hitchens Is Hailed by Stephen Fry as a Man of Style and Wit
Stephen Fry
The Daily Beast
Actor and author Stephen Fry salutes Christopher Hitchens as an inspiring polemicist but also as an abiding fan of P. G. Wodehouse and a magnificent writer.
Almost as many words have been written about Christopher Hitchens since he died as he would write in a typical working week. He was one of very, very few people on earth whom I would have missed just as much had I never had the pleasure and fortune of knowing him. He lit fires in people’s minds. He was an educator. He was polemical only inasmuch as he was naturally disputatious: this is a quality (ironically perhaps) that he might trace to the Talmudic influence of his Jewish genes as much as it being a brisk British parliamentarian style or a Hellenic mode of reasoning through argument. No one I have ever met or witnessed spoke better on the hoof. His writing was immaculate, subtle, crafted, filled with reference, knowledge, and reason. His humanist version of apostasy in turning against Clinton and in favor of the Iraq War enraged or puzzled some of his natural allies, but no honest human could confront his work and output without admiration. Of course there will be deranged people who will rejoice in their weird conviction of his eternal and infernal roasting. If hell has Christopher in it, then I’d like to reserve my place there now. But the joke is on the absurd religionists (who do not represent the majority of quietly devout and faithful people whom neither I nor Christopher wished to offend), for his words have made him immortal.
Read more

Christopher Hitchens: 'the consummate writer, the brilliant friend'
Ian McEwan
The Guardian

Ian McEwan writes of his close friend's last weeks, and how his love of journalism and literature sustained him to the end

Christopher Hitchens with Ian McEwan (left) and Martin Amis in Uruguay, posing for a picture which appeared in his memoirs, Hitch 22. Photograph: PR

The place where Christopher Hitchens spent his last few weeks was hardly bookish, but he made it his own. Close to downtown Houston, Texas is the medical centre, a cluster of high-rises like La Défense of Paris, or the City of London, a financial district of a sort, where the common currency is illness. This complex is one of the world's great concentrations of medical expertise and technology. Its highest building, 40 or 50 storeys up, denies the possibility of a benevolent god – a neon sign proclaims from its roof a cancer hospital for children. This "clean-sliced cliff", as Larkin puts it in his poem about a tower-block hospital, was right across the way from Christopher's place – which was not quite as high, and adults only.

No man was ever as easy to visit in hospital. He didn't want flowers and grapes, he wanted conversation, and presence. All silences were useful. He liked to find you still there when he woke from his frequent morphine-induced dozes. He wasn't interested in being ill, the way most ill people are. He didn't want to talk about it.

When I arrived from the airport on my last visit, he saw sticking out of my luggage a small book. He held out his hand for it – Peter Ackroyd's London Under, a subterranean history of the city. Then we began a 10-minute celebration of its author. We had never spoken of him before, and Christopher seemed to have read everything. Only then did we say hello. He wanted the Ackroyd, he said, because it was small and didn't hurt his wrist to hold. But soon he was making pencilled notes in its margins. By that evening he'd finished it.

Read more

Illness made Hitchens a symbol of the honesty and dignity of atheism
Richard Dawkins
The Independent

On 7 October, I recorded a long conversation with Christopher Hitchens in Houston, Texas, for the Christmas edition of New Statesman which I was guest-editing.

He looked frail, and his voice was no longer the familiar Richard Burton boom; but, though his body had clearly been diminished by the brutality of cancer, his mind and spirit had not. Just two months before his death, he was still shining his relentless light on uncomfortable truths, still speaking the unspeakable ("The way I put it is this: if you're writing about the history of the 1930s and the rise of totalitarianism, you can take out the word 'fascist', if you want, for Italy, Portugal, Spain, Czechoslovakia and Austria and replace it with 'extreme-right Catholic party'"), still leading the charge for human freedom and dignity ("The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy – the one that's absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head, not just your actions and your taxes. And the origins of that are theocratic, obviously. The beginning of that is the idea that there is a supreme leader, or infallible pope, or a chief rabbi, or whatever, who can ventriloquise the divine and tell us what to do") and still encouraging others to stand up fearlessly for truth and reason ("Stridency is the least you should muster ... It's the shame of your colleagues that they don't form ranks and say, 'Listen, we're going to defend our colleagues from these appalling and obfuscating elements'.").

The following day, I presented him with an award in my name at the Atheist Alliance International convention, and I can today derive a little comfort from having been able to tell him during the presentation that day how much he meant to those of us who shared his goals.
Read more

Polish translation of Richard's article above
Choroba uczyniła Hitchensa symbolem uczciwości i godności ateizmu
Autor tekstu: Richard Dawkins
Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska
7 października nagrałem długą rozmowę z Christopherem Hitchensem w Houston w Teksasie do Bożonarodzeniowego wydania „New Statesman", które redagowałem jako gość.
Read more

More exclusive extracts from Hitchens's final interview.

Richard Dawkins (left) and Christopher Hitchens pictured in Texas.
Photograph: Michael Stravato.

Richard Dawkins's interview with Christopher Hitchens, which can be read in full in the Christmas issue of the New Statesman (copies can be purchased here), turned out to be Hitchens's last. Their conversation, ranging over religion, fascism and US politics, provided ample evidence that Hitch's Rolls Royce mind, as Ian McEwan called it, was still purring. Here, for Staggers readers, are some more excerpts from it.

Hitchens on his legacy

RD I've been reading some of your recent collections of essays - I'm astounded by your sheer erudition. You seem to have read absolutely everything. I can't think of anybody since Aldous Huxley who's so well read.
CH It may strike some people as being broad but it's possibly at the cost of being a bit shallow. I became a journalist because one didn't have to specialise. I remember once going to an evening with Umberto Eco talking to Susan Sontag and the definition of the word "polymath" came up. Eco said it was his ambition to be a polymath; Sontag challenged him and said the definition of a polymath is someone who's interested in everything and nothing else. I was encouraged in my training to read widely - to flit and sip, as Bertie [Wooster] puts it - and I think I've got good memory retention. I retain what's interesting to me, but I don't have a lot of strategic depth.
A lot of reviewers have said, to the point of embarrassing me, that I'm in the class of Edmund Wilson or even George Orwell. It really does remind me that I'm not. But it's something to at least have had the comparison made - it's better than I expected when I started.

Read more

We are moving a few of the articles which appeared yesterday in "obituaries" to this thread

Christopher Hitchens memoir to be published early next year
Alison Flood
The Guardian
Entitled Mortality and based on his columns for Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens' final memoir will be published by Atlantic in the new year

Christopher Hitchens' memoir will be out in January. Photograph:

A final memoir by the late author and polemicist Christopher Hitchens will be released early next year, his publisher said this morning.

Hitchens, who died yesterday aged 62, wrote a series of columns for Vanity Fair about his battle with oesophageal cancer, chronicling how he moved "from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady".

The forthcoming memoir will be based on the essays, said Atlantic Books, and will be called Mortality. The book had been planned for some time, said a spokesperson.

"Before I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year and a half ago, I rather jauntily told the readers of my memoirs that when faced with extinction I wanted to be fully conscious and awake, in order to 'do' death in the active and not the passive sense," Hitchens wrote in his final column for Vanity Fair. "However, one thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings. And there's one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that 'Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger'."

Read more

Photos: In Memoriam of Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011
Alyssa Bereznak and Juli Weiner
Vanity Fair
Beginning with his roiling soixante-huitard days—picketing and protesting; joining up with the Labour Club at Oxford—to his raucous and even law-breaking assignments for this magazine, Christopher Hitchens’s life in photographs is a freewheeling and spirited adventure. From Hitch, we would expect no less.

From the collection of Christopher Hitchens
Read more



Richard Dawkins & Lawrence Krauss...

- - YouTube - Atheist Foundation 43 Comments

Richard Dawkins & Lawrence Krauss Tribute to Christopher Hitchens - 2012 Global Atheist Convention

Orwell prize: Christopher Hitchens...

John Dugdale - The Guardian 4 Comments

Orwell prize: Christopher Hitchens honoured with memorial award

Heaven Can Wait - Was I wrong about the...

Christopher Hitchens, as told to Art... 49 Comments

Heaven Can Wait - Was I wrong about the afterlife? No.

Appeal to Freethinkers to Fight Cancer

- - YouTube - ScottBurdickArt 14 Comments

Appeal to Freethinkers to Fight Cancer

Stephen Fry & friends on the life,...

- - YouTube - iqsquared 33 Comments

Stephen Fry & friends on the life, loves and hates of Christopher Hitchens - IQ2 talks

In Defense of Richard Dawkins

Christopher Hitchens - Free Inquiry 52 Comments

Why should he sit still and see a valued and precious discipline being insulted, even threatened with not being taught?



Worrying developments for freedom of...

Various - Various 289 Comments

But the key thing to note in all these cases is that it is no longer just the religious who would inhibit our freedom of expression: increasingly, secular bodies are buying into this invidious idea too, all in the name of 'tolerance' or 'community relations' or 'respect'.

Christopher Hitchens obituaries

Various - Various 152 Comments

A collection of obituaries

Bulletins from the Dublin Atheist...

Various - Various 83 Comments

Hitchens defeats Blair in Toronto

Various - Various 89 Comments

An Audience with the Pope

Various - New Humanist 35 Comments



Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment