Friday, 16 December 2011

the Hitch is dead, long live the drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay

and I do not mean that in the sense that a Facebook friend appears to have done when she posted the title of this post on her status, prefacing it with "Ding, dong".  Whatever her problem might be, I hope she gets over it soon.  She works for the Guardian though, so I am not optimistic.

I met Christopher Hitchens once, in fact we were at the same dinner and talked about the monarchy.  He was against it.  I wasn't, having changed my mind on it.  We were both for the Iraq war.  He had previously, without knowing it, helped me to see Mother Teresa and her work clearly, and to despise her and it. Like me, he could change his mind and admit it, and say why.  There the resemblance ends.  I am not fit to tie his intellectual or political shoelaces.  Nor his drinking ones either, though I do my best there.

the pic is by Andre Carrilho
My university education did not teach me clarity of thought, though it tried.  If any one influence could have said to have done so, it was the rather small amount of Christopher Hitchens' writing I have actually read.  Permit me to quote from Ben Archibald's tribute to the Hitch:  There have already been many, and there will be many more.

Every speaker can gain from his lucidity and his application of occamite precision to his thoughts.  Every essayist can learn from his attention to source, to citation and his invocation of sometimes unexpected supporting material.  Every polemicist can learn from his willingness to be challenged

Well, you get the picture, I hope.

I was in London on 7/7 (as it has never really been called), in 2005, trying vainly to get to Kings Cross, and not knowing what had happened.  As the picture began to emerge more clearly, and we knew that London had been under terrorist attack and that quite a large number of people had been killed, I thought first of Christopher Hitchens.  Because war is when people you don't know are trying to kill you.  I was thinking of his collected essays, "Love, Poverty and War", and that I had experienced love, and also poverty, but not war, until that day.  A banal thought perhaps, but there you go.

I am so sorry that there will never be a new book, or an essay, or a new polemic from the Hitch.  What then must we do?

The epithet in the title of this post was hurled at the Hitch by George Galloway.

There must be a good last line to follow that.


Anonymous said...

I remember that you had met him.

I feel that I ought to agree - but I just can't.

I certainly don't agree at all with the Galloway popinjay, or the silly Guardian girl ( Facebook can turn up some odd friends) - or the rant of Tariq Ali either.

I don't like Christopher Hitchens in the same way that I don't like Martin Amis and I don't like Salman Rushdie - or any of that set - and especially not Emma Soames - although I do like Candia McWilliam very much. Although she is no longer a part of it and she could certainly have drunk Christopher Hitchens under the table or Christopher anybody else for that matter. Or even the table.

I am not going to say any more - except that I have always liked Peter Hitchens and it is fashionable for people to say he is horrid and crap and CH is wonderful and marvellous.And yet I like PH and not CH. Hm. What does that say about me? Well - not too many people are keen on me anyway! Don't care!!

Oranjepan said...

Yes, Hitch helped afford me some clarity of thought. If he stated an opinoin, that meant it was an opinion which required defeating.

In that sense he belonged to a rarified class of commentator, alongside Jan Moir, Jeremy Clarkson etc.

His remarkable skill was to zone in on a particular angle which expressed an unquenching bitter tone - something capable of wearying the most enthusiastic onlooker. A resolute and colourful character.

Anonymous said...

Not keen on Christopher Hitchens, but the likes of Moir and Clarkson are not fit to pick up his used loo paper. In fact - they are not even fit to be picked up themselves by a refuse collector.

I think it is an insult to my least favoured Hitchens that he should be forced, in death, to share a blog post with these terrible, untalented toads.

Anonymous said...

Peter Hitchens has written an honest and very moving piece about his brother in The Mail on Sunday. It says it all.

The reference to Little Gidding was especially relevant and well chosen.

In the end you do go back to the beginning because it is the only thing that you really know. And it is what you are.

Anonymous said...

I think 9/11 changed him for the better.

For years he and Alexander Cockburn wrote nasty anti=Israel articles in the New Staesman. After 9/11 he realised that Islamic fascists were far worse, and lost his obsession with, and hatred of, Israel. Also his maternal grandmother revealed she was Jewish shortly before she died, which also made a difference.

As a religious person I am not worried by his opposition to religion, as there are too many religious maniacs. It was partly driven by his brother's Christianity.