Christopher Hitchens: He died too young, with too much left to say

Nick Cohen pays tribute to the most ‘intellectually generous’ man he ever met

Why are so many who love the English language and human freedom in mourning for Christopher Hitchens? His full-length books never showed his talents to the full – not even God is not Great, his atheist bestseller. With typical modesty – and he was always self-critical, despite appearances to the contrary – he thought that only his literary essays would be read after his death. The dominance of theory-spouting obscurantists in university English departments meant he had that field pretty much to himself, and his writing on Larkin, Powell, Rushdie, Bellow and, above all, Orwell is indeed “imperishable,” to use his favourite word.
Carry on reading

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2 thoughts on “Christopher Hitchens: He died too young, with too much left to say

  1. Well, it makes me very sad indeed.
    I’m so glad I met him, that I knew of him and read him: reading his life, not just his words. Because that’s what you do with someone like him, you read the life, not the memoir alone. You want to know what he’s up to, what he’s said, what’s he’s saying, who he’s flicked and who’s he hitting.

    I’ll never forget this day…

    Forgetting my suit trousers on the day I travelled down to London from Carlisle for his God is not Great book signing, I had to cycle 10 miles or so on my mother’s bike back home from her house, with one tyre flat, with a fair amount of uphill work to do. I wanted to look smart for him.
    A navy blue suit jacket, pale blue shirt and black shoes could not be worn with tracksuit bottoms, anywhere.

    While he was signing books, shuffling closer in the queue, I would happily have ran away. What can you say to someone who seemed to know everything that has been said and to have a quickness of reply to show that he might well already know what you will say to him?
    Well, I got there, in front of him, and I stuck out my hand, smiling, and congratulated him on recently becoming an American citizen. He said he hadn’t done it to be congratulated and something else, but I didn’t catch what; because I felt like I was being squashed into a shoe box.
    He took my book and asked me what I’d like him to write. Fraternal greetings, I said. It is what ends his chat with C.L.R James in his collection of essays For the Sake of Argument, and a smile broadened his lips. “Well, I wonder what you’ve been reading?” he teased. The voice, the assuredness, the hair, the eyes, the shoulders, his face like a handsome shield. He said that without a moment passing, and he said it warmly, hopefully sympathetically.
    I hadn’t written it down, yet he answered perfectly, instantly.
    Later that night, in a fleapit room in King’s cross, I wished that I’d planted a big sloppy kiss on his forehead and ran off waving.

    To experience him in person will remain a high-point in my life.

    I shall miss him very much; he is unforgettable.

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