“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends” wrote Hitchens last June and I am heartbroken to know he passed away yesterday…
I didn’t agree with everything he said (but who would? who could?) yet I learned a lot of very interesting things from him especially his relentless atheism that provoked the wrath of the faithful!
He sold his soul to the devil of alcohol and booze who helped him write but killed him prematurely. Keeping his great wit until the end he said: “In whatever kind of a ‘race’ life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist”.
Here are some quotes from him that I like:
“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.”
“People are being too easily pleased. I’m amazed they settle for so little.”
“A gentleman is someone who is never rude by accident.”
“A lot of friendships absolutely depend upon a sort of shared language.”
“I hate stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”
His friend Richard Dawkins said: “I think he was one of the greatest orators of all time. He was a polymath, a wit, immensely knowledgeable, and a valiant fighter against all tyrants including imaginary supernatural ones.”
I got to know his work via his excellent articles and book reviews and then I read his great book, “God is not great, how religion poisons everything”. I laughed all the way through the book! I liked his succinct biography of Thomas Jefferson and his latest book, Arguably, is patiently waiting in my Kindle.
Graydon Carter says: “There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar.”
I read in Time that When Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, believers of all faiths prayed for his health — and his salvation. The staunch atheist responded that he was grateful for the good wishes and hoped that praying for him made the faithful feel better. “Hitchens was never far below boiling point. He was an evangelical secularist, an atheist warlord.”
His friend, the novelist Ian McEwan, once said of Hitchens: “It all seems instantly neurologically available: everything he’s ever read, everyone he’s ever met, every story he’s ever heard. I’ve seldom met anyone who speaks in such fluid, elegant, nuanced sentences, dizzying in their breadth of reference.”
I strongly disagreed with him on his stand on the Iraq war or his view on abortion but he bought me back when I read what he had said of George Bush, when he was governor of Texas: ‘He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things’.
Another quote: “Marx says criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism. Philosophy starts where religion ends, just as chemistry starts where alchemy breaks off or astronomy starts where astrology runs out. It is the necessary argument. Not believing in the supernatural is the critical thing.”
These past few months, It was heart wrenching to read his articles about the cancer killing him but he never lost his grace. His memoir, Hitch-22, was a good (if not great) read because I was curious about what made this man who he is. I would like to see his friends, Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, write about his death, his life…
Read about his last days here.
Read Hitchens’ article about his own imminent death here.
A good article about him is on today’s NYTimes here.