Author, journalist, and provocateur Christopher Hitchens died Thursday in Houston at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. The cause was pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer.
Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, where Hitchens was a contributing editor, said: “There will never be another like Christopher. A man 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.”
Fans and critics alike are grieving.
Andrew Sullivan wrote, just before Hitchens’ death, “He is the greatest advertisement for the existential courage of the atheist I have ever known. And I say that not just from his writing, but from two and a half decades of debate and discussion with him in person.” His friend Christopher Buckley remembered him in an anecdote-filled New Yorker eulogy:
One of our lunches, at Café Milano, the Rick’s Café of Washington, began at 1 P.M., and ended at 11:30 P.M. At about nine o’clock (though my memory is somewhat hazy), he said, “Should we order more food?” I somehow crawled home, where I remained under medical supervision for several weeks, packed in ice with a morphine drip. Christopher probably went home that night and wrote a biography of Orwell. His stamina was as epic as his erudition and wit.
Anne Applebaum remembered Hitchens for his “profound experience of the world” and “sense of humor so dry you could hear it crack.” For Jacob Weisberg, it was his unexpected kindness to young journalists. Ta-Nehisi Coates admired his “clarity of purpose.”
Here is a link to his last essay in Vanity Fair, about mortality, perseverance and chemotherapy. In his last interview, with Richard Dawkins, Hitchens preferred to talk about his most strongly held political views and the importance of stridency in arguing them — the things for which, along with his wit (gathered here), huge personality, and writing (gathered here), he will be most remembered. As Robert Chalmers said in GQ’s roundup, “Curious to think that Christopher Hitchens might even now be arguing with God. Pity the deity.”