On June 8, 2010, Christopher Hitchens awoke in a New York hotel room feeling very ill indeed. “I came to consciousness,” he later wrote, “feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse.” He could scarcely breathe. With difficulty he made it to the telephone and called an ambulance. At the hospital, scans indicated the presence of “some kind of shadow.” Hitchens, a lifelong smoker, had cancer of the oesophagus. Eighteen months after hearing that diagnosis he died, aged 62.
Until that day in New York, Hitchens had been on a roll. He had a fair claim to being the most scintillating off-the-cuff speaker on earth. His political journalism was likewise never boring. After the September 11 attacks on America he turned savagely on his former comrades on the Anglo-American left, calling them “soft on crime and soft on fascism.” Dashing, prolific, superbly articulate, he was both an old-school man of letters and a scruffily willing verbal brawler. On YouTube, his fans coined a name for the way he trounced his hapless opponents: they called it the “Hitch slap.” In 2007, his atheist polemic God is Not Great became a best-seller. His 2010 memoir, Hitch-22, proved he was getting better with each new book ... [read more]