Tributes paid to journalist Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens (14 Sept 2005) Christopher Hitchens: "A great voice falls silent," said Salman Rushdie

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Tributes have flooded in for the British-born author, literary critic and journalist Christopher Hitchens who has died at the age of 62.

He had been suffering from oesophageal cancer.

Tony Blair described him as "a complete one-off, an amazing mixture of writer, journalist, polemicist, and unique character".

The author Salman Rushdie, a friend, paid tribute to him on Twitter after the announcement of his death.

"Goodbye, my beloved friend. A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops," he wrote.

Mr Blair, the former Labour prime minister, publicly debated religion with Hitchens in November 2010. He said Hitchens "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."

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."

Start Quote

No evidence or argument has yet been presented which would change my mind - but I like surprises”

End Quote Christopher Hitchens On atheism

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".

Hitchens became a celebrity in his adopted homeland of the US after the publication of his 2007 book God Is Not Great, 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."

'Against every tide'

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

Writing in the Daily Mail, Peter Hitchens said that the one word that came to mind when he thought of his brother was "courage". He would always rather fight than give way, he wrote, not for its own sake but because it came naturally to him.

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."

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.

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".

I had the uncomfortable misfortune of sitting between Christopher and his nemesis George Galloway on the Bill Maher show once. The two loathed each other so much they would not even look at me in the middle for fear of catching each other's eyes.

And yet Christopher made the evening one of the most pleasant of my life when, at drinks afterwards, he told me I had never been hotter.

I was eight months pregnant. After that he could do no wrong in my eyes.

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.

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."

A statement from Vanity Fair said he died of pneumonia, a complication of his cancer.

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.

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


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  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I feel bereft of a man who eloquently put into words what most so often thought.hate the quote in the news broadcasts that he "started" on the left....FOR GOODNESS SAKE HE NEVER LEFT IT, IT LEFT HIM. Like Orwell he recognised fasicism wherever it appeared in SaddamHussein, Galtieri...having to support slightly less right wing people to get rid of that is actually staying true to your principles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Hitchens dead, David Cameron indoctrinates the country, this is a sad time for progress in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Cameron today declared Britain a Christian country. Was he scared to do so while CH was still alive? Wouldn't surprise me. Don't think the millions of none-Christian (or non religious) Brits will all embrace Christianity now. So is it a Christian Big Society now?
    Personally I think that someone who read a HC book is a more enlightened person than someone who read the bible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    He was a writer who put into words that which I thought but was unable to express. I also disagreed with him on many things but could never deny the intelligence behind his arguements. I currently have three of his books on my bedside table, long may they remain there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    @45. Tony Martin
    None of those were humanists. Try again.
    Hitler was a Catholic - fact.
    "I've said it before and I'll say it again!"
    ME TOO!

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    62. kavi96
    Not to detract from the sadness of Hitchens' death, but the BBC has used the "Tributes flood in for..." headline almost every time someone's died recently.
    Well, it's true, init. Tributes did flood in for all those people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Not to detract from the sadness of Hitchens' death, but the BBC has used the "Tributes flood in for..." headline almost every time someone's died recently.
    Recent headlines I found by searching the website: Tributes pour in for football's Gary Speed, Tributes pour in for Apple boss Steve Jobs, Jimmy Savile: Tributes flood in, Amy Winehouse tributes flood in from around world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    To encourage others to think and to question everything is a worthwhile trait in a world where religion has been created a desire to hide it all. But we shouldn't hero worship the man for merely opening our eyes when they should have been opened long ago. He'll now have found his truth and his peace. May he rest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Condolences to Christopher's wife and children. They have lost a husband and a father. I am not a young man and I became aware of Christopher rather late in life. I greatly admire his courage, his elegance and his tremendous good humour. I shall miss his writing, and that rich commanding voice of his enormously. I wish only that I could have met him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    I know my daughter has bought me Arguably for Christmas, which makes me happy on so many levels.

    I raise a glass to religious fanatics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    We've lost a great commentator and skewerer (is that a word?) of purveyors of pretentious claptrap, especially associated with religion. We need more people with his eloquence, wit and humanity to hold us all accountable. The world is a more mundane place after his death.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    so he rejected the confines of religion and rules... he got arrested, he offended numerous people, he was an alcoholic, smoker... might that have anything to do with his short lifespan?

    there's a big difference between a 'thinker' and a person who thinks that they are smarter than everyone else, and that everyone else is liable to be mocked... bigotry sometimes becomes fashionable...

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I feel sadder about Hitchens' death than, logically, i am entitled to feel. I sense many others feel the same. I didn't know him, but he symbolised something that is important to me. His detractors on these comment boards are snapping at his heels, peeping between the legs of the Colossus, they will never soar like he did.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    The Hitch is dead; long live the the Hitch.

    In a salient sense, Hitchens has achieved a very palpable brand of immortality - an intellectual legacy which will resonate with critical, independent thinkers and readers for decades - if not generations. There have been so few lucid and cogent thinkers who have dared to rise above, and criticize the anti-intellectualism that is religion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    "A bad day for atheists"

    Hitchens was a free thinker. You should try it yourself.

    Don't be so quick to cling on to the security of the fashionable new religion. Or be so blind as to think "this one is different".

    It's not easy to be a free thinker, when you are sheep. Frankly, it's a miracle if it happens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.


    can 'people stand' without the breath endowed them by their Creator? Christopher Hitchens no longer stands.


    Wooooooo! Deep mumbo jumbo speak. Evidence free, self justifying twaddle, but as deep as a puddle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Mr. Hitchens was a brilliant writer and fought passionately for reason over religious superstition. Such a terrible loss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    @24..........he proved without a shadow of a doubt that people can stand on our own two feet in this world ////

    Well here's a shadow; can 'people stand' without the breath endowed them by their Creator? Christopher Hitchens no longer stands. Nor will I or anyone reading this, in time. RIP Christopher Hitchens

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Christopher Hitchens was a legend. I am very very sad tonight that he is gone. He stood up against the illogicality of religion, its hypocrisy, its brutality, its falsehoods, its homophobia, its arrogance, its advocacy of child genital mutilation, its self-righteousness, its ignorance, its protection of paedophile priests. I am so sorry you are gone. Rest in Peace Mr Hitchens, Rest in Peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    “What do you most value in your friends? Their continued existence.”
    - Christopher Hitchens

    Very pertinent right now Christopher. We will miss you.


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