Cancer weakened, but did not soften Christopher Hitchens. He did not repent or forgive or ask for pity. As if granted diplomatic immunity, his mind’s eye looked plainly upon the attack and counterattack of disease and treatments that robbed him of his hair, his stamina, his speaking voice and eventually his life.
“I love the imagery of struggle,” he wrote about his illness in an August 2010 essay in Vanity Fair. “I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient.”
Hitchens, a Washington, D.C.-based author, essayist and polemicist who waged verbal and occasional physical battle on behalf of causes left and right, died Thursday night at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston of pneumonia, a complication of his esophageal cancer, according to a statement from Vanity Fair magazine. He was 62.
“There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar,” said Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. “Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls.”
A huge loss of such a wonderful writer.
An emphatic ally and inspired foe, he stood by friends in trouble (“Satanic Verses” novelist Salman Rushdie) and against enemies in power (Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini). His heroes included George Orwell, Thomas Paine and Gore Vidal (pre-Sept. 11). Among those on the Hitchens list of shame: Michael Moore, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong il, Sarah Palin, Gore Vidal (post Sept. 11) and Prince Charles.
“We have known for a long time that Prince Charles’ empty sails are so rigged as to be swelled by any passing waft or breeze of crankiness and cant,” Hitchens wrote in Slate in 2010 after the heir to the British throne gave a speech criticizing Galileo for the scientist’s focus on “the material aspect of reality.”
Out future King he’s talking about!