This evening I finished Christopher Hitchens’s autobiography, Hitch-22. Hitchens was admirably courageous, both physically and intellectually (though some would say he was ideologically foolhardy), a great wit, a brilliant debater and a first-rate journalist. But the man who comes across in the first half of this book is not somebody I think I could have liked. Several times Hitchens admits self-deprecatingly that he ‘plays both sides’ – sexually, socially and politically. He looks back and scoffs at the young socialist firebrand who would picket Cowley one day and be supping at All Souls the next (and bedding future Conservative ministers the day after that), but he also wants us to admire him for the unorthodox combination. In fact, this Hitchens was an assiduous networker, name-dropper and a snob (at times inverted). What redeems the book and the man, for me, is his late discovery that he is a Jew. His mother had hidden her origins. Her husband never knew and her sons only discovered long after she had died. Hitchens traces his family back to German Prussia and the borderlands with the old Poland. The best chapter in the book is his unflinching exploration of that great well of sorrow, the holocaust and its aftermath and the diaspora it unleashed – of which he was but one small, brilliant, fragment.