Victor Navaksy: How I Brought Hitchens to The Nation in 1978

A wartime lexicon.
Dec. 16 2011 12:18 PM

Hiring Hitchens

How I got him to write for The Nation.

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The late Christopher Hitchens

See Slate’s full tribute to the life of Christopher Hitchens. Read Slate’s complete collection of Christopher Hitchens' columns.

I became editor of The Nation in 1978, and one of the first and best things I did that year was to ask, via old-fashioned snail mail, a writer I didn't know, but whose elegant pieces I had been reading in the New Statesman, and everywhere else, since he seemed to be traveling the world anyway, why not write an occasional article for The Nation? Which he proceeded to do with elegance, wit, and brilliance.

As I wrote some years later: "Then, one day around five p.m. a dimpled five-o'clock shadowed face peered through my half-open door, surrounded by a haze of smoke. 'Drink?’ asked the deep, richly accented baritone voice that accompanied all of the above. If it is possible in one word to convey an upper-class sensibility attached to a heart ostentatiously identified with the toiling masses, Christopher Hitchens succeeded.

"We repaired with some comrades, as he liked to call all who partook of his charismatic company, to the Lion's Head, our local [Greenwich Village] pub, where we indeed had a drink or three," and this was the beginning of an adventure which–despite our subsequent political differences—I like to think was as rewarding for him as it was for us.

See Slate’s full tribute to the life of Christopher Hitchens. Read Slate’s complete collection of Christopher Hitchens' columns.

Victor S. Navasky is the former editor and publisher of The Nation and now chairs the Columbia Journalism Review.

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