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Friday, December 16, 2011

Goodbye Hitch

Dec 16th, 2011

Christopher Hitchens 1949 -2011
Photo by Gasper Tringale via
Only days ago, Vanity Fair posted an essay by Christopher Hitchens from their forthcoming January issue. I wondered at the time if it might not be his last?

It was. 

"I am attracted to the German etymology of the word “stark,” and its relative used by Nietzsche,stärker, which means “stronger.” In Yiddish, to call someone a shtarker is to credit him with being a militant, a tough guy, a hard worker. So far, I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and to stay combative even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline. I repeat, this is no more than what a healthy person has to do in slower motion. It is our common fate. In either case, though, one can dispense with facile maxims that don’t live up to their apparent billing."

In this final essay, he quotes gloomily from poet John Betjeman's "Five O'Clock Shadow." It may have seemed fitting at the time, but there is another Betjeman poem which, it seems to me, better sums the total of Hitchens' life and work

The Planster's Vision

Cut down that timber! Bells, too many and strong,
Pouring their music through the branches bare,
From moon-white church-towers down the windy air
Have pealed the centuries out with Evensong.

Remove those cottages, a huddled throng!
Too many babies have been born in there,
Too many coffins, bumping down the stair,
Carried the old their garden paths along.

I have a Vision of The Future, chum,
The worker's flats in fields of soya beans
Tower up like silver pencils, score on score:
And Surging Millions hear the Challenge come
From microphones in communal canteens
'No Right! No wrong! All's perfect, evermore.'

There will be no other Christopher Hitchens. 

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful tribute from the gifted Grey Parker to the gifted Christopher Hitchens. Tete a tete.