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« Homo narrans (Sujatha) | Main | Vaclav Havel: The good, they die young (Norman Costa) »

December 16, 2011


I sometimes preface my admiration for Christopher Hitchens' brilliant and incisive writings by mentioning that I did not agree with his stance on the Iraq war. That is not to say that I expect to agree with a public intellectual 100% of the time but that this particular divergence, I did not expect to happen.

Hitchens' autobiography, Hitch 22 is a very readable book - funny, poignant at times and for the most part honest. What struck me greatly about it was that Hitchens, a brash man with a considerable ego that he displayed unabashedly, was also a very faithful friend. His admiration for his close knit group of literary and political pals was fulsome and generous. A memoir is often a venue to brag about oneself. Despite his seeming arrogance and confidence in public, Hitchens does very little of that in his book. Instead, he has much good to say about others.

I will miss Hitchens who had the rare gift of being as effortlessly articulate in speech as he was in his writings. He died as he lived - prodigiously chronicling for our benefit his elation, pain, condemnations and irreverence with an immaculate facility of language. Above all, he was never a bore.

@ Ruchira:

Your observations and sentiment mirror mine. What a ride! I've used the word "awe" a few times in the past couple of weeks. To use it again seems to overwork the idea. However, I have no other way to express my feelings for his..."rare gift of being...effortlessly articulate...". Just thinking about it makes my jaw begin an involuntary drop.

Before the publication of "God Is Not Great," and when he would lecture on his criticisms of religions, he would reference his own children - with great feeling, I might add - and say that he refuses to allow government, society, schools, churches, whatever, to tell lies to his daughters, especially when he is not in ear shot. He specifically mentioned his daughters. I identified, greatly, with this. I have two daughters of my own, now grown with their own careers and families. Their childhoods and beyond were rife with intruders (family and one-time friends) who did everything they could to compensate for my perceived delinquencies in the orthodox religious indoctrination of my own children - all of it behind my back and in secret.

I understood very well that his message was not about religion, per se, but the right of every human being to decide what their own ideas and beliefs should be, including how they will raise their own children, educate them, and instill values. So much of his passionate delivery was a variation on, "I don't want anyone telling my children that they must believe they are born wretched, sinful, etc., etc."

Those who believe that goodness, faith in your fellow man, and spirituality presuppose belief in a personal, supernatural deity (even if those Godless heathens aren't aware of it) cannot fathom Hitchens' very human sentiments of the transcendent, and the numinous, and how meaningful they were to him. To many of Hitch's critics, his regard for the King James bible (what it meant for the consolidation and development of the English language, the preservation of ancient sacred literature, and as a repository of different manifestations of the human psyche) just didn't compute.

And OH!, what a great writer!

Always thought he had a lot more to offer. Was sad to hear that he passed.

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