Thursday, December 15, 2011

In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

Courtesy of Vanity Fair.

Christopher Hitchens—the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant—died today at the age of 62. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after. His matchless prose has appeared in Vanity Fair since 1992, when he was named contributing editor.

“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eye retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frank, graceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,” he wrote in the June 2011 issue. He died in their presence, too, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. May his 62 years of living, well, so livingly console the many of us who will miss him dearly.


  1. He was a person who aroused strong emotions in people. I admired his intelligence and wit, he had the courage of his convictions; I loved watching him debate.

    It was just last week that I quit reading his FB page due to a few posters wrote really ugly stuff about believers of any stripe. He was so sick by then that I doubt he saw their comments. Well, now he knows what awaits us all.

    RIP, Christopher. There won't soon be another like you.

  2. Even though I didn't "know" them, I feel the same way as I did when Tony Snow and Tim Russert died - like I lost a friend...

  3. OMG, I just saw this. A great writer, debater, full of wit and critisism. I am sorry he died so (relatively) young. It is sad that the caliber of him are few and very far between.

    I didn't agree with his socialism (although he wasn't ever a commie) or his athieism. He did however write with a fierce intelligence and wit.

    I'm sure he died as he lived, with passion and commitment and a cigarette with a glass of Scotch.

    RIP Christopher Hitchens it was a pleasure to have read your words.

  4. Dammit anyway, GD cancer takes too many, too soon.

  5. Never will one who has pissed off so many be so sincerely missed... by so many...

    I disagreed with Hitchens with such ferocity that where I found myself in agreement, I would question my own conviction.

    Yet I feel palpably poorer for his loss.

    From what I gather reading around the web at this hour, I'm not alone in my sentiments.

    Richard Fernandez sums it up nicely: His [Hitchens'] facility at expression was such that it is presumptuous to try and add to his account.

  6. I often disagreed with Hitchens, but I always admired his sharp intellect and his ability to see through spurious arguments. His fight with cancer was endured with dignity and a firm resolve.

    It's a sad day. The world is a poorer place with his passing. You'll be missed, Mr. Hitchens.

  7. Public intellectual often has such classist, pretentious overtones. But in Hitchens's case, it is an apt descriptor. RIP, Mr. Hitchens.