Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality

This evening I read Christopher Hitchens’s posthumously published collection of essays, Mortality. Cumulatively, the collection is, in Hitchen’s words, an account of ‘living dyingly’. It is full of wrily witty observation – ‘When you fall ill, people send you CDs. Very often, in my experience, these are by Leonard Cohen.’  – and illustrative anecdote. For example, Hitchens recounts that the Danish physicist and Nobelist Niels Bohr once hung a horseshoe over his doorway: ‘Appalled friends exclaimed that surely he didn’t put any trust in such pathetic superstition. “No, I don’t,” he replied with composure, “but apparently it works whether you believe in it or not.”‘ In the beginning, when the cancer that would kill him had first been diagnosed, Hitchens hung a few horseshoes over his doorway, but when his end was certain no note of self-pity crept into his writing. Rather, he wrote almost forensically about the irritations and the humiliations and the frustrations of a disease which with supreme irony chose first to rob him of his voice. In one of his essays Hitchens quotes the American educator, Horace Mann: ‘Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die.’ Hitchens died unashamedly.

1 Comment

  1. Hugo Kijne

    Have you also read ‘God is not great’? An absolute masterpiece.

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