Monday, 21 May 2012


well, he is never dull.  On the strange creature who was Jorge Luis Borges, who admired Videla and Pinochet, and hated the Perons (Hitchens calls Evita "whorish") and was sexually perhaps a little dysfunctional.   Hitchens says that the critic F.H. Bradley has the right epitaph for Borges "For love unsatisfied the world is a mystery, a mystery which satisfied love appears to understand."

On America and American writing, Hitchens says that "Augie March" is the Great American Novel.  Well, that made me download it to my Kindle, but it will take a lot to push "Huckleberry Finn" off his perch for me.  I'll let  you know when I've read it.  Hitchens also tells us that Saul Bellow, who wrote "Augie March", went to Mexico to find Trotsky and got there the day after old Leon had been ice-picked, and viewed the body with blood in its hair.  Really?  This sounds like an urban myth.  Can anyone confirm?  I seem to remember a film about Trotsky, made in the 1970s with Richard Burton in the title role, in which the killing scene was made to look like a bullfight.  Must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

Hitchens is brilliant on Malcolm Muggeridge.  Boys of a certain generation (my brother) were quite often big fans of Muggs.  Not me.  Bloke was never off the telly, and this is what Hitchens has to say about why.
"...he was drawn compulsively to that which he found loathsome.  Television, he could plainly see, would be the death of literacy and the handmaid of instant gentrification: it would instill cheap and commercial values and invite the nastiest forms of populism.  He fell for it like a ton of bricks.  He wallowed exuberantly in its corruption.  He was a natural.  He was perfectly well aware, as his diaries show, that he was expending his spirit, in a waste of shame.  But he enjoyed it, and excelled at it, and he may have hoped to turn the greatest weapon of crass modernity against itself."  Marvellously, Hitchens goes on to mention a 1969 film of Muggeridge's, entitled "Something Beautiful for God" which Hitchens says "launched the person that we all came to know as Mother Teresa|, an then goes on to say nothing about her.  And yet we know what Hitchens thought about Mother Teresa, which is what I think too.  That she was a ghastly pro-totalitarian old bitch who sucked the dicks of dictators.  Excuse crudity.

And when I went to see 'Fahrenheit 9/11' - I could not stay until the end - I wish I could have written about it as Hitchens did.

"To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability.  To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental.  To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious.  'Fahrenheit 9/11' is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness.  It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of 'dissenting' bravery."

Hitchens (writing in 2001) on the defeat that year of the Taleban in Afghanistan.  "We are rid of one of the foulest regimes on earth... no possible future government in Afghanistan can be worse than the Taleban... those ultralieftists and soft liberals who said don't bomb, leave Afghanistan alone, etc... needn't be teased too much now.  The rescue of the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 taught them nothing; they were for leaving Bosnia and Kosovo to the mercy of Milosevic; they had nothing to say about the lack of an international intervention in Rwanda."  These people, or the generation that now follows them, are now saying "Syria is not our war".  Whose war is it then?  The person who said that to me recently would say "the Syrians' war".  He is a Christian who believes in a one-state solution for Israel-Palestine.  A Palestinian state.

Well, pardon the cliche, but we won't see the likes of him again.


Anonymous said...

Hmm Saul Bellow. Christopher Hitchens and I seem to be totally antithetical in our likes and dislikes. Joyce. Greene. BELLOW.

No, No, No.
I hate Martin and Kingley Amis as well.

Also Emma Soames.

God knows how Candia McWilliam could stand any of them.

Jonny said...

From Saul Bellow's Journal, an entry from 1993:
“I was in Mexico at the time, and an acquaintance of the Old Man, a European lady whom I had met in Taxco, arranged a meeting. Trotsky agreed to receive my friend Herbert Passin and me in Coyoacán. It was on the morning of our appointment that he was struck down, and when we reached Mexico City we were met by the headlines. When we went to his villa we must have been taken for foreign journalists, and we were directed to the hospital. The emergency room was in disorder. We had only to ask for Trotsky. A door into a small room was opened for us and there we saw him. He had just died. A cone of bloody bandages was on his head. His cheeks, his nose, his beard, his throat were streaked with blood and with dried trickles of iodine.”

Jane Griffiths said...