Paul Rance Banner

Old Paul Rance Articles

Christopher Hitchens - Truly One of a Kind by Paul Rance


Christopher Hitchens, who died in Houston, Texas, on December 15th, 2011, was one of a diminishing breed of thought-provoking writers, journalists and public speakers.

Proud Left Winger and Atheist

Never afraid to be controversial, Hitchens was dismissive of religion, and, even close to death, he never wavered in his conviction that religion was more of a destructive and divisive force, than a force for good. Hitchens was never going to provide a deathbed conversion in a desperate attempt to enter Heaven.

Hitchens described himself as left wing, though he angered many on the left, when he came out in support of the War in Iraq. He was, however, disturbed enough by reports of torture by NATO troops, that he endured waterboarding to judge how distressing it was for himself.

There was a disarming bluntness to Christopher Hitchens, and he was as blunt about his mistakes, as he could be about those of others. For instance Hitchens regretted not criticising Zimbabwe's despotic leader, Robert Mugabe, more harshly. This was due to Hitchens loyalty to his leftist views, and his delight in seeing black Africans empowered after decades of oppressive white rule.

Attacked Public Figures

A mesmerising interviewee, Christopher Hitchens lived half his life in the UK, in what he called his formative first 30 years. He spent the next three decades cementing his position as one of the finest journalistic writers of his generation. He became most famous in the US as a columnist and literary critic at Vanity Fair.

Nicknamed 'Hitch', Christopher Hitchens was not scared of attacking public figures who were revered, such as Mother Teresa. In Hitchens' eyes, Catholic views on birth control were a cause for Calcutta's unsustainable population, resulting in the grinding poverty Mother Teresa was trying to stop. Hitchens also famously attacked Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger.

Born in Portsmouth, England, on April 13th, 1949, Christopher Hitchens had a privileged upbringing, and was a student at Oxford University. But, in the 1960s, Hitchens was among many new left wing radicals, who turned against a system that they saw as unjust - despite it favouring themselves.

Hitchens' Resilience

Christopher Hitchens proved himself to be a resilient character as a very young man, when his mother Yvonne killed herself in Athens, in a suicide pact with her lover Timothy Bryan. She was still married to Hitchens' father Eric at the time. Hitchens' went to Athens to bring his mother home, but found the time to pen an article about the Greek military junta. This was his first lead article, and his journalistic breakthrough, in the prestigious British political magazine, the New Statesman.

Hitchens built up his career not only as a journalist and critic from the 1970s onwards, but he became an intellectual celebrity - a term he'd no doubt of hated. A guest on many TV programs in the UK and US, Hitchens was liked by both sides of the political spectrum, because he eschewed dogma, and didn't write and talk to please a particular audience. He even turned on one of the grand old men of American Literature, Gore Vidal, who had put forward Hitchens as his natural successor. Hitchens ridiculed Vidal's belief in 9/11 conspiracy theories.

In June 2010, Christopher Hitchens had treatment for oesophageal cancer, the same type of cancer that had killed his father in 1987. The disease didn't dim his wit, as he wrote a piece about his battle under the headline, 'Topic of Cancer', for Vanity Fair.

Christopher, weakened by cancer, died of pneumonia. He leaves behind wife Carol Blue, three children, Alexander, Sophia (born during Christopher's marriage to Eleni Meleagrou) and Antonia (born during his marriage to Carol). Also mourning Christopher Hitchens' death will be his younger brother Peter. Also a famous writer, but right wing, Peter's relationship with his brother was not always smooth, but they were on good terms in recent years. As well as leaving behind loved ones, Christopher Hitchens leaves behind a legacy of writing and speaking that will cause debate for generations to come.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Rance