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HITCHENS/ A man with a wounded heart

December Wed 21, 2011

Christopher Hitchens (Photo Ansa)  Christopher Hitchens (Photo Ansa)

Christopher Hitchens, author, social critic, editor, columnist, and atheist "extraordinaire" died of cancer last Saturday at a Houston hospice. He was 62 years old. He died with dignity, in his sleep, without the spectacle he feared most: a dramatic last minute public conversion. It is interesting to read some of the reactions to his death. The following sample is taken from the "This Week" Internet page.

"He was a man of insatiable appetites — for cigarettes, for scotch, for company, for great writing, and, above all, for conversation," says Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. "That he had an output to equal what he took in was the miracle in the man. You'd be hard-pressed to find a writer who could match the volume of exquisitely crafted columns, essays, articles, and books he produced over the past four decades."

"Like his hero, Orwell, Christopher prized bravery above all other qualities — and in particular the bravery required for unflinching honesty," says Benjamin Schwarz at The Atlantic. "This most intellectual of men valued intelligence, but valued courage far more — or rather, he believed that true intellect was inseparable from courage."

Christopher Buckley in The New Yorker writes: "One of our lunches, at Café Milano, the Rick's Café of Washington, began at 1 P.M., and ended at 11:30 P.M. At about nine o’clock (though my memory is somewhat hazy), he said, 'Should we order more food?' I somehow crawled home, where I remained under medical supervision for several weeks, packed in ice with a morphine drip. Christopher probably went home that night and wrote a biography of Orwell. His stamina was as epic as his erudition and wit."

"Goodbye, my beloved friend," says novelist Salman Rushdie via Twitter. "A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops."
He was the "finest orator of our time" and a "valiant fighter against all tyrants including God," says writer Richard Dawkins, a vocal atheist like Hitchens.

"I knew Hitchens only by reading him. To read him was to be deeply impressed — envious, if you were a writer yourself — and at some point to have been deeply pissed off by him," says James Poniewozik at Time. "Hitchens knew when to care greatly about the larger world, and when, therefore, not to give a rat's ass what the larger world thought of him. It's one thing for a writer to be principled, and it's one thing for a writer to be a jerk; it’s a rare thing to be a principled jerk, and that's what Hitchens was."

"Religion, he wrote is 'violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive towards children,'" says Roy Greenslade at The Guardian. "Thinking back to the 1970s, I can hear him saying that, with many adjectives and expletives thrown in for good measure. And that's how I wish to remember him."



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