Christopher Hitchens dies at 62 after suffering cancer

Writer Christopher Hitchens Vanity Fair's editor said those who read him felt they knew him

Related Stories

British-born author, literary critic and journalist Christopher Hitchens has died at the age of 62.

He died from pneumonia, a complication of the oesophageal cancer he had, at a Texas hospital.

Vanity Fair magazine, which announced his death, said there would "never be another like Christopher".

He is survived by his wife, Carol Blue, and their daughter, Antonia, and his children from a previous marriage, Alexander and Sophia.

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter described the writer as someone "of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar".

"Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls."

Hitchens was born in Portsmouth in 1949 and graduated from Oxford in 1970.

He began his career as a journalist in Britain in the 1970s and later moved to New York, becoming contributing editor to Vanity Fair in November 1992.

"Prospect of death makes me sober, objective"

He was diagnosed with cancer in June 2010, and documented his declining health in his Vanity Fair column.

In an August 2010 essay for the magazine he wrote: "I love the imagery of struggle.

"I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient."

Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, in November that year, he reflected on a life that he knew would be cut short: "It does concentrate the mind, of course, to realise that your life is more rationed than you thought it was."

Radicalised by the 1960s, Hitchens was often arrested at political rallies and was kicked out of the Labour Party over his opposition to the Vietnam War.

He became a correspondent for the Socialist Workers Party's International Socialism magazine.

In later life he moved away from the left. Following the September 11 attacks he argued with Noam Chomsky and others who suggested that US foreign policy had helped cause the tragedy.

He supported the Iraq War and backed George W Bush for re-election in 2004.

It led to him being accused of betrayal: one former friend called him "a lying, opportunistic, cynical contrarian", another critic said he was "a drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay".

But he could dish out scathing critiques himself. He called Bill Clinton "a cynical, self-seeking ambitious thug", Henry Kissinger a war criminal and Mother Teresa a fraudulent fanatic.

'A great voice'

He also famously fell out with his brother, the Mail on Sunday journalist Peter Hitchens, though the pair were later reconciled.

Hitchens could be a loyal friend. He stood by the author Salman Rushdie during the furore that followed the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses.

Writing on Twitter after the announcement of Hitchens' death, Mr Rushdie said: "Goodbye, my beloved friend. A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops."

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly debated religion with Hitchens at the Munk Debate in Toronto in November 2010.

"Christopher Hitchens was a complete one-off, an amazing mixture of writer, journalist, polemicist, and unique character," said Mr Blair.

"He was fearless in the pursuit of truth and any cause in which he believed. And there was no belief he held that he did not advocate with passion, commitment and brilliance.

"He was an extraordinary, compelling and colourful human being whom it was a privilege to know."

The MP Denis McShane was a student at Oxford with Hitchens.

He said: "Christopher just swam against every tide. He was a supporter of the Polish and Czech resistance of the 1970s, he supported Mrs Thatcher because he thought getting rid of the Argentinian fascist junta was a good idea.

"He was a cross between Voltaire and Orwell. He loved words.

"He could throw words up into the sky, they fell down in a marvellous pattern."

Start Quote

Christopher Hitchens was everything a great essayist should be: infuriating, brilliant, highly provocative and yet intensely serious”

End Quote Nick Clegg Deputy Prime Minister

The publication of his 2007 book God Is Not Great made him a major celebrity in his adopted homeland of the United States, and he happily took on the role of the country's best-known atheist.

He maintained his devout atheism after being diagnosed with cancer, telling one interviewer: "No evidence or argument has yet been presented which would change my mind. But I like surprises."

The author and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins described him as the "finest orator of our time" and a "valiant fighter against all tyrants including God".

He said Hitchens had been a "wonderful mentor in a way".

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who once worked as an intern for Hitchens, said: "Christopher Hitchens was everything a great essayist should be: infuriating, brilliant, highly provocative and yet intensely serious.

"He will be massively missed by everyone who values strong opinions and great writing."

Hitchens wrote for numerous publications including The Times Literary Supplement, the Daily Express, the London Evening Standard, Newsday and The Atlantic.

He was the author of 17 books, including The Trial of Henry Kissinger, How Religion Poisons Everything, and a memoir, Hitch-22.

A collection of his essays, Arguably, was released this year.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    Chris you are my hero...I am not an atheist, however I want to thank you for sharing your wisdom and enlightening me to make me think for myself! Today, the world has lost a great person. I salute you sir.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    I heard his debate with Dr William Craig, and was not that impressed with his arguments rebutting faith and the existence of God. In fact he was quite indecisive and uncertain at times, while Craigs' arguments were logical and reasonable.

    If that is it, how sad. However if he was wrong, and there is life after death, I hope in his last breath he again reconsidered his position and found it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    I respect his great courage!

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    I see the poisonous pedlars of the sky fairy doctrine are out in numbers already - post away folks! Your nasty little comments reveal you all for what you are. You help re-enforce much of what Mr Hitchens has said and make a worthy contribution to increasing the ranks of critical thinkers and non believers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    It's nearly always sad when someone this exciting passes. The world will be a little quieter without him but I feel it will be a better place for sure. Hitchens, a proponent for the invasion of Iraq was a leader in propagandising it and a lot of people listened to him and believed in what he said. My thoughts are not with him at this time but the Million+ others he helped send to their graves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    I agree with him. Religion is wrong. Funny how God chooses the most drastic opponent to show that idolatry is wrong. His servant has now passed away but his legacy remains... Turn away from your idolatry, your Allah's, your Buddha's, your Gods of Hinduism... For as proven by Hitchens it is all foolish. 80% of God's word (The Bible) is proven by science. My faith isn't blind. It's reasonable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    He certainly hated everything Left-ish; the Labour supporters, the working class, immigration etc etc.

    I don't mind people speaking their mind, he was sometimes over the top - like me perhaps !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Let's be honest for a second, there is no evidence to suggest that any form of deity has any influence what so ever on his supposed creation. Natural disasters are not a sign from God. The "prophecies" in the Bible that came to pass are clearly written in retrospect, and it doesn't contain any profound scientific information, it's been thoroughly debunked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Please,Christopher was a great man and his personality on this planet sadly missed. I have been digesting the comments with interest and feel the one word I find missing from most of them is tolerance.Without it I do not think we can consider ourselves civilized.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    As seen on a toilet wall:-

    "God is dead, Hitchens, 2006" and just underneath "Hitchens is dead, God, 2011".

    Evangelical atheists like Hitchens are more pushy in their insistence on being right about their chosen religion than members of any other sect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    All respect to Hitchens.

    It's pretty shoddy/usual for there to be but one "have your say" to comment on. Dumbing-down BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Hitchens a man who supported a war which was committed under false pretences and killed millions, a man who thought waterboarding was not torture. That is until he got waterboarded to see how it felt. Now he'll know like is previous lack belief of waterboarding being torture, what happens when he dies, let's hope he wasn't wrong or he is in trouble. RIP to all those innocent people killed, RIP

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    'ukkev' reminds me of this Hitchins quote:

    "It's considered perfectly normal in this society to approach dieing non-believers and say now are you going to change your mind? . If I were to go round hospitals and say to religious people you may only have a few days left but you don't have to live them as a serf that would not be very ethical, but if its in the name of God it has a social licence"

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    8 Minutes ago
    As a Christian editor of many works, I realize Christopher Hitchens may have fought God, but God is still alive and he is not.

    really? If he is alive then where is he?!
    Sorry but a flippant remark like that deserves one in return

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    Being not particularly religious i always struggle to accept the tenants of athisim that people like CH pushed so vehermently. The foundations of science lie in theory, the higgs boson particle has never been seen or heard of yet it is believed to be central to the composition of the universe why in the same breath can we claim as fact the nonexistence of any deity based on a lack of evidence??

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    For me, atheists drop into the Heller Catch 22 problem. Isn't 'believing' in the absence of god, a belief in itself? So they certainly aren't non-believers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    A great intellect, but not always polite. Appearances on Question would have him constantly interrupting other speakers, not least his brother. I never understood his support for Bush (an intellectual pygmy in comparison) or the Iraq War (there were and still are other murderous dictatorships). I suspect CH would be amused at so many comments from religious believers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    A bush/blair "tart" . So much for intellectual credentials.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    I wonder why he didnt want to die in britain?He was british after all.Could it be he didnt trust the NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    As a Christian editor of many works, I realize Christopher Hitchens may have fought God, but God is still alive and he is not.


Page 16 of 39


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.