Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011
Editor's note. We're republishing two of Christopher Hitchens' contributions to Radio 3's Night Waves, as a tribute to the author and journalist, who died this morning. Fiona Mclean, a senior producer on the programme, remembers him here - SB.
Christopher Hitchens' death is very sad news for the Night Waves team. Christopher has appeared on Radio 3 for many years. He was the perfect guest: provocative, stimulating, entertaining, eloquent and contrarian. Whenever he was in the studio everyone raised their game. You didn't have to agree with him on the many topics he discussed - religion, Mother Theresa, Bill Clinton, Thomas Jefferson, the war on Iraq - but he always made you think more about whatever he was dissecting.
And he was fun. In one of his last appearances on Night Waves he came in to talk to Matthew Sweet about Thomas Paine; after a terrific defence of the revolutionary Founding Father he performed, in a whisky infused bass, and much to Matthew's delight, a song about Paine to the tune of 'God Save the Queen'.
He was a fascinating man, a contrarian who started life as a Trotskyist but who went on to defend the war in Iraq. Two things remained a constant to the end though: his love of literature and his hatred of religion. In 2007 he was in the studio for a heated and very lively discussion about his book on the immorality of religion with Philip Dodd.
He returned in 2008 to talk to Matthew about his decision to undergo 'waterboarding' and why he had changed his mind, very publicly, about the practice. And, in his last appearance on the programme, just before he was diagnosed with the cancer that has led to his death, he talked about his memoir, 'Hitch-22', a riveting read through his journey of radical ideas.
Fiona McLean is a senior producer on Night Waves
- The picture shows Christopher Hitchens outside the New Statesman - where he worked - in 1978 (Rex Features).
- Here are two of Hitchens' appearances on Night Waves, from 2007 and - his last appearance on the programme - 2010:
- Listen to the 2007 broadcast: 'God is not great'
- Listen to the 2010 broadcast: 'Autobiography'