The Hitchens Collection - UPDATE: Hitch Unwell

Jameson's picture
Submitted by Jameson on Sun, 2008-04-13 09:52

Hitchens has cancer of the oesophagus. I know there are many here who will be wishing him all the best in his recovery.


Happy Birthday, Christopher. 59 today and looking good.

With such a wealth of excellent Hitch material available I thought I'd take it upon myself to sift through it all to provide the many fans here a sort of ongoing Best of Hitchens. Enjoy. Smiling


( categories: )

Probably a Great Book

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Marcus -- A book for all of us, unfortunately. A capitalist world would make far better progress on increasing longevity and defeating mortality.

Hitch releases new book about his last days

Marcus's picture

I'm sure he would have loved the idea that few authors have posthoumously published a book chronicalling the end days of their lives.

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

"In this collection of deeply personal articles written whilst Hitchens was battling cancer, he poignantly describes the torments of illness, discusses its taboos, and explores how disease transforms experience and changes our relationship to the world around us. By turns personal and philosophical, Hitchens embraces the full panoply of human emotions as cancer invades his body and compels him to grapple with the enigma of death."

Stephen Fry & friends on the life, loves and hates

Marcus's picture

Left-wing Bolshie Stephen Fry is surprisingly good.

Welcome to Simulated Reality

seymourblogger's picture

where there is only credibility.


Richard Goode's picture

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

Hitchens said that? Well, he's not wrong. It's one of the fundamental principles of epistemology.

Is this the same Christopher Hitchens who said..

Burnsy's picture

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

Where's his evidence for his very own such assertion?

Afterall if he has no evidence then such an assertion (as asserted by Christopher) can be dismissed accordingly.

May I finish by also adding my sincere hope that Christopher does indeed have a full life as he deals with cancer. 

Christopher Hitchens in Conversation with Stephen Fry

Richard Goode's picture

For over forty years Christopher Hitchens has written and spoken with passionate commitment on matters that others fear to broach. His life has been one of defiance, wit and humility. Now his life is threatened by cancer, but his devotion to the truth and his extraordinary courage are undiminished. In this special event for Intelligence², Hitchens will be in conversation via satellite in Washington D.C. with his friend Stephen Fry who will be onstage at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, London, in front of a sell-out audience of 2,500. Don't miss this chance to hear one of the great public intellectuals of our age discussing politics, literature and, as he puts it, "the things that make life worth defending – foes like faith and false consolation".

‘If Hitchens didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be able to invent him.’ -Ian McEwan

It will be a sad day, indeed, when life goes without the Hitch. Of the Four Horsemen of the New Atheist Apocalypse, I rate Hitchens highly. (Dawkins and Harris, not so much.)

Christopher Hitchens, still outrageous

Marcus's picture

"Christopher Hitchens has survived the latest intervention in his ongoing treatment for cancer, an examination by CBS's Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes, with the author joking that the severity of his illness has made him a "member of a cancer elite" who finds himself "looking down on people with lesser cancers".

The profile, filmed over a period of months following Hitchens's diagnosis with oesophogeal cancer in June 2010, furnishes an admiring overview of the great controversialist's life, as well as a fascinating portrait of the incomprehension and affection which result on both sides when mainstream America encounters the maverick Englishman.

Described by Kroft as a "provocateur" who consumes "staggering amounts of alcohol", Hitchens proceeds to gently run rings around his interviewer, wryly observing that his 5% chances of survival are "not the odds [he] would have picked", demanding more precision in Kroft's suggestion that the polemicist has sometimes gone "over the top", and then correcting Kroft's quotations from his demolition of Mother Theresa.

Hitchens admits that the diagnosis left him "petrified with fear", because he worried that it might stop him writing, which would diminish his "will to live".

"Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do," he says...

The latest footage, filmed in February, shows a bearded Hitchens speaking with a little more rasp in his voice, but still with the same sharp wit. According to Kroft, the author nearly died in January, and is taking a "cutting-edge drug" in an "experimental programme" which is "showing some promise".

Christopher Hitchens jokes about joining 'cancer elite'

This half hour...

Marcus's picture

...BBC interview with Hitchens passed me by.

"In a wide-ranging special interview, Jeremy Paxman talks to the writer, polemicist and commentator Christopher Hitchens about his cancer diagnosis, his life, his politics and writing."

Broadcast on Monday 29 November 2010.

Christopher Hitchens talks to Jeremy Paxman

Hitch IS Unwell

gregster's picture

Hitchens Defeats Blair in Debate

Marcus's picture

Christopher Hitchens: 'You have to choose your future regrets'

Marcus's picture

Christopher Hitchens photographed at home in Washington, DC.

"He cut his teeth on dialectical materialism as a teenage Trotskyist, and it was the analytical method that eventually put paid to any allegiance, as it were, to the political madness. The past 40 years have amounted to a long and serpentine political journey. As he relates in his memoir, it started out at Oxford with his keeping "two sets of book", one for the puritanical group of revolutionary socialists with whom he campaigned against the Vietnam war, and the other for the conservative socialites with whom he caroused at black-tie balls. And it reached its furthest distance from origin with his support for George W Bush and the second Iraq war.

Along the way, he says, "I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness. Amazing. My conservative friends look at me and say, 'Welcome to the club. What took you so long?' Well that's what it took and I think it's worth recording."

The hinge events, of course, were the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. He had previously held positions that were unpopular on the left – preferring the British government to the Argentinian fascist junta during the Falklands conflict, and calling for American intervention to stop the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia – but his support for the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan proved to be a step too far for his anti-imperialist comrades.

Hitchens genuinely believes radical or jihadist Islam to be an existential threat to civilisation. First because it is a pronounced enemy of free speech and social liberty and has succeeded in intimidating and silencing civilians across "an extraordinary number of countries in Europe" and the rest of the world. And second, he says, "because it has potential access to weapons of mass destruction." In the end, he argues, there are no pain-free options. You have to choose which future regret you're going to have.

"I was at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut about two and a half years ago," he says. "Very striking. Everyone should go. But of the many things that impressed me about it, having the mushroom cloud as the party flag in an election campaign was the main one. You wouldn't want to look back and think, I wish I'd noticed that being run up. Now I can give you all the reasons that it's bombast on their part. Still, I know which regret I'd rather have."

There appear to be two main criticisms of this stance. Either people think he's a bonkers Islamophobe – though many who do were content enough to leave Muslims to their bloody fate in Bosnia – or they believe such antagonistic talk only serves to create the problem it seeks to prevent. Hitchens is contemptuous of the former, but scathing of the latter. He says that those who tell him to tread more softly believe that the price of not doing so is more violence. "Oh I see, so you're always aware when you're contesting the holders of this view of the threat that lies behind it? Would you care for their opinions if it wasn't for that? Or are you telling me you'd be reading their stuff just for the sheer pleasure of it. I don't think so. If you say that this looks like war, you're accused of liking it. Not true. Demonstrably not true."

Demonstrably? Certainly he can sound like he enjoys the conflict. He has said that he experienced "a feeling of exhilaration" while watching the World Trade Centre collapse on 11 September. "Here we are then," he later recalled thinking, "in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose."

He says the exhilaration was born of a sudden if overdue sense of clarity.

"What I felt is that we'd been suffering from all this for some time. And yet people's main interest seemed to be in ignoring it or denying it, or if they were politicians or soldiers, running away from it: abandoning Somalia, leaving Afghanistan to rot, trying to subsume Islamism into multiculturalism. I thought: until yesterday, they knew they were at war, and we didn't. And now we do: of course that's exhilarating. It was the feeling that the somnambulance was over. Of course it turned out to be a very brief wake-up call, followed by a very long nap: 'Turned over in bed briefly. It's 8.59? No, it can't possibly be!'"

If 9/11 was the decree nisi, then the divorce from the left was made absolute by the war in Iraq. He had been a persuasive opponent of the first Gulf war in 1991, arguing that Bush senior was not liberating Kuwait but simply restoring the status quo. Slowly he changed his mind, and he describes the process:

"I said that Bush [senior] may have used the rhetoric of anti-fascism but he didn't mean it. And then I said, yeah, but what if he had meant it? Would I therefore be obliged by my own argument to be in favour? The answer was 'yes'. And then I said, well what do you care how they argue? You should be arguing it yourself. And I found I couldn't get out of that."

It's an instructive piece of reasoning. For while it suggests he remained true to his dialectical word by examining the counterargument, it's also a kind of a first-principles assessment of principles. As such it could be applied to countless other situations. For example, should the west have intervened in Cambodia when stories first began to emerge of the genocide taking place there under the Khmer Rouge? "I don't think there was a policy," he says, a little lamely, "so I can't say that there should have been one. I don't think it's a real question."

His only major regret, as far as remaining silent goes, is what he didn't say about Robert Mugabe. "That makes me wince. More than wince. I'd met him a couple of times and I knew that he had in him a terrible capacity for fanaticism, absolutism, and I didn't say as much about that as I could have done. If I asked myself about why I didn't, I'm sure the answer is because I didn't want to give ammunition to the other side."

As an aside on Mugabe, he makes one of those observations that are so precisely to the point that you wonder why so few other commentators ever get round to coming to it. "Darfur, Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, anywhere that the concept of human rights doesn't exist, it's always the Chinese at backstop. And always for reasons that you could write down in three words: blood for oil."...

"Trying to destroy the Christian community, strategy of tension, trying to start a civil war," he says, listing al-Qaida's nihilistic programme, "and people act as if those casualties should be on my conscience. I won't have that. For one thing, it absolves those who have done it of their guilt."

I try to argue that it overstates the case to suggest, as some of his more deranged critics claim, that he is somehow personally responsible for the tens of thousands of lost lives in Iraq. After all, had he not existed, would history have taken a different path?

To his credit, he refuses to accept that get-out. As he does in his memoir, he restates his role, along with people such as Peter Galbraith and Kenan Makiya (he insists Ahmed Chalabi's part has been "ridiculously exaggerated") in helping to persuade Washington of the need for regime change. But he also says that, even if he had negligible or no effect, "you should act as if your opinion might have made the difference. You don't have to be a megalomaniac to do that. And to say that you feel to that extent responsible, without making a parade of your feelings."

What's beyond doubt is that Hitchens's sense of optimism and purpose in 2002 in Washington was never going to be matched by the post-invasion plan in Iraq in 2003. He has no quarrel with the fact that the occupation was badly handled. "As Peter [Galbraith] said, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Tragic. But I mean tragic."...

Hitchens and the New Atheism

AristotlesAdvance's picture

Nothing is more boring than the "New Atheism" movement of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, et al.

Hitchens' prognosis is not very good, and if you're a fan of his (which I am most definitely not) then you should probably prepare for the fact that he isn't going to make it.

Of course, many of us wonder how Hitchens is going to prepare for it; i.e., whether there's going to be a deathbed conversion or not. Either way, it'll be interesting.

Good to see....

Marcus's picture

...Hitch still at it.

Hitch's Handbook for Cancer Patient Etiquette

Jameson's picture

The indomitable Hitchens continues to laugh in the face of death with another take on his stage four metastasized esophageal cancer... (and before you ask him how bad it is, there is no stage five.)

"So, if your own first- or secondhand tale is about some other organs, you might want to consider telling it sparingly, or at least more selectively. This suggestion applies whether the story is intensely depressing and lowering to the spirit—see above—or whether it is intended to convey uplift and optimism: “My grandmother was diagnosed with terminal melanoma of the G-spot and they just about gave up on her. But she hung in there and took huge doses of chemotherapy and radiation at the same time, and the last postcard we had was from her at the top of Mount Everest.”"

Something to cheer up Hitchens...

Marcus's picture

A pensioner, Winnie Langley, who smoked for more than 95 years and only gave up because she could no longer see the end of a match, has died a month short of her 103rd birthday.

Winnie Langley had already cut down from her five-a-day habit to just one cigarette last year because of the credit crunch.

"Despite the numerous health warnings, she insisted she never suffered because of the habit because she "never inhaled".

Members of her surviving family, who this week attended a funeral service near her home, paid tribute on Thursday to the “feisty and stubborn” pensioner, who died late last month at her old peoples' home.

Anne Gibbs, who lives in Lincoln, Licolnshire, said her great aunt loved “Monopoly and cards” but never smoked inside.

"She always enjoyed a smoke and a drink. But it was a maximum of five cigarettes a day,” she said.

"She stopped just before Christmas because she could not see the end of the match to light it. She said to me 'I miss them', but she was determined that would be it.

“There was a lot more to her than just smoking, she was a family person.”

She added: “She was feisty and stubborn and she also had a wonderful sense of humour. She was incredible right until the end. She was a voracious reader and loved crosswords and puzzles.”

Mrs Gibb said she got cancer when she was 88 but later “bounced back” before having a pacemaker fitted when she was 98.

"It was only the last six weeks her health deteriorated,” she said.

Mrs Langley was born in Croydon in 1907 as one of seven children."

Excellent, Marcus

Jameson's picture

... thanks.

An extended version...

Marcus's picture

Unfortunate user name of the person who posted it, but nevertheless worth watching.

Hitch: Face to Face with Reality

Jameson's picture

[Deleted in favour of Marcus' unabridged version]

Hitch on June 13, 2010

Ed Hudgins's picture

Hitch on June 13, 2010. Saw him speaking about his new book, "Hitch 22." It was stifling hot and he looked like he was suffering, as were most of us in the audience. He was rather reflective but, as always, interesting.


A goodie alright...

Jameson's picture

... thanks, Liv.

Losing that voice would be a tragedy, let alone that life.

Conversations With History:

Olivia's picture

This is my favourite interview with Christopher. There's so much in it worth listening to.
This interviewer, Harry Kreisler, asks many poignant questions. It's in-depth as it runs for a full hour.

I'm so sad..

Olivia's picture

to hear this about poor Hitch. I wish him all the best medical treatment in the world to help with his recovery. Terrible thing.
We need him.

Poor Hitch

Jameson's picture

"I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice."

Full story here.

Who are the two top intellectual gurus of the American right?

Jameson's picture

According to Hitchens it's Leo Strauss and Ayn Rand who influenced Alan Greenspan "an unrepentant member of the family of Objectivists made up by Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden, who used to meet to discuss the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged..."

Hitch Fires Both Barrels at Christian Book Expo

Jameson's picture

Hitch's Free Speech speech

Jameson's picture

"My own opinion is enough for me and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, any place, anytime -- and anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass."


Jameson's picture

Indeed it has been disabled for embedding...

[click on pic to go thru to clip]


gregster's picture

That did make me laugh 2-n Glenn. Smiling

Vid not avail. Shocked

Cheers Lance.

Mark Hubbard's picture

Cheers Lance.

MP3 (80 mins) available

Lance's picture

MP3 (80 mins) available here.

Part one.

Embedding has been disabled for that video from the youtube end.

Damn. I would've loved to

Mark Hubbard's picture

Damn. I would've loved to see this Hitchen/Fry YouTube clip Glenn, with a second n, but when played it comes up as not available.

Was it in the manner of a comedy sketch? 

Hitch debates Stephen Fry

Jameson's picture

Well actually, given their fondness for one another, it's more of a friendly match.

P.S., Kasper, for the last fuckin' time, it's Glenn with two fuckin' Ns. Okay, one N is silent and completely redundant but it serves a dual purpose: it provides a certain visual balance to the monicker, and separates me from the noun: a narrow valley. Smiling

Regarding Boteach vivisection: did we see the same debate? :-/


Kasper's picture

Thanks for this collection Glen. It has been great listening. Not sure how you reached the verdict that Hitchens 'demolished' the theologian though.

Not his proudest moment...

Matty Orchard's picture

An incident from 03

C'mon guys this way a good idea! Where are the contributions!?

A short, sharp poke in the anti-war-mongers' one eye

Jameson's picture

The full debate is worth a watch too.

Hitchens on Charlie Rose (1999)

Jameson's picture

This is the interview in which Hitch calls Bill Clinton a rapist and Charlie stammers sit-comically out of control, tries desperately to moderate the comment then ends up digging himself a hole the size of Arkansas.

Christopher's expression is priceless.


1. 2.
3. 4.

Welcome back, Matty-O!

Jameson's picture

And may I say, an excellent addition to the collection! Smiling

Unfairenheit 9/11

Matty Orchard's picture

Christopher takes Michael Moore to school.

Hitchens vs Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Jameson's picture

A 93-minute debate in which Hitch demolishes a top Jewish theologian.


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