Remembering Christopher Hitchens

A wartime lexicon.
Dec. 16 2011 11:05 AM

Christopher Hitchens Remembered

Tributes to the journalist and intellectual from Julian Barnes, Anne Applebaum, James Fenton and others.

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David Corn, Washington bureau chief, Mother Jones
Here is how I came to hate Christopher Hitchens. Hate—as in envy.

In the early 1980s, as a twentysomething trying to start a career as a crusading journalist, I was fortunate enough to share an office with Hitchens. It was just the two of us. And one phone line. We were both working at The Nation. He had come to it as part of an exchange program with the New Statesman, a British publication, and had elected to remain in the wonderful and wild New York City of the late disco era. I was an editorial grunt. The magazine was running short on workspace, and we were assigned a small, windowless office on a floor apart from the main offices. READ MORE

Anne Applebaum, journalist and director of political studies  at the Legatum Institute
“I see you were feeling eeyorish about Macedonia last week.” As far as I recall, those were the first words Christopher Hitchens ever said to me.  They threw me completely. What was this new adjective, “eeyorish”? From which language did it derive? READ MORE

Fred Kaplan, author and Slate columnist
I met Christopher Hitchens in the early 1980s, soon after he first moved to America. We were both in D.C. I was friends with a few expat British journalists, who of course were old chums of “the Hitch,” so it was natural that we’d be introduced. READ MORE

Alexander Chancellor, Guardian columnist
In retrospect it seems obvious that Christopher Hitchens always needed a larger canvas on which to perform in his many roles as a journalist, debater, and public intellectual, but it nevertheless came as a surprise to many in London when this left-wing British Marxist, apparently happily ensconced in the socialist weekly the New Statesman, suddenly took off for the United States in 1981, never to return. READ MORE

Matt Labash, senior writer, the Weekly Standard
No secrets are being divulged when I report that Christopher liked a drink every now and then.  Preferably now. He wasn’t sloppy about it. In fact, he always seemed in perfect control (I once saw him steer a beach bike through the streets of Key West without spilling his Scotch.) He just liked to keep the machine well-oiled so he could get on to more important things, like liberating oppressed peoples of the world, knocking out his 10,000 words a day, or starting fights with God, assuming there is one, which he doesn’t. In some ways, his affection for drink brought us together, setting in motion my most vivid memories of him. READ MORE

Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts
There was one year, 2003 I think, we kept him onstage all day at Hay. He started on Waugh with Bill Deedes, the model for William Boot in Scoop. He argued the influence of the Congress of Vienna with Eric Hobsbawm for a couple of hours. Instead of lunch, he delivered an extraordinary lecture on Tom Paine and constitutional law. There was a 20-minute Rothmans break. About eight cigarettes. He hadn’t stopped drinking Johnny Walker Black Label at any point from 10 a.m. READ MORE

Hussein Ibish, writer
Because Christopher Hitchens was so politically confrontational and devastating to his opponents, the public is largely unaware of his intense personal generosity and kindness. Time and again, he went far beyond the normal duties of friendship. As our mutual friend Michael Weiss aptly puts it, "Friendship was his ideology." READ MORE

Victor Navasky, former editor and publisher, The Nation
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 forThe Nation? Which he proceeded to do with elegance, wit, and brilliance. READ MORE

David Wolpe, rabbi
My first moments with Christopher Hitchens were interrupted by a man who pointed out that on the back of my book on faith, a reviewer was quoted saying “even Christopher Hitchens might find his heart warmed.” So, the man asked Hitchens, was your heart warmed?  Hitchens regarded my book as an enforcer from Men in Black might look at a particularly repellant alien. “Oh no,” he said, “my heart is far too reptilian for that.” READ MORE

Peter Pringle, author
Christopher covered the bloodless Portuguese revolution in April 1974, that brought down the 20th century's oldest fascist regime. He arrived at the Tivoli Hotel in Lisbon ahead of most of us, as usual. (I was then working for Harry Evans'Sunday Times.) As I got out of a taxi, he was standing on the hotel steps. He was wearing a white suit, well, it might not have been a suit, but it was white, and he was puffing on a cigarette. From the top of the steps, he called out, "Hello, comrade. This is a real revo." READ MORE

Craig Raine, writer and founding editor of Arté
Hitch took part in a Vanity Fair debate at the Oxford Union with Sidney Blumenthal and Alan Clark. It was organized by the then editor, Tina Brown. Hitch got to his feet: “I stand before you, without shame, reeking of cigarettes and alcohol …” (The debating topic was public and private morality in politicians.) READ MORE

Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue
This past July, I gave a book party for my friend Gully Wells. Christopher Hitchens—or Hitch, as he was known to me and just about everyone else—came, as did Martin Amis and James Fenton, who were among his closest friends. It ended up being a reunion of sorts. We’d all known each other for a long time; a million years ago, in London, I’d dated Hitch, and Gully had dated Martin. READ MORE

Katie Roiphe, author and columnist
I first met Christopher on the set of the Charlie Rose show at a low point early in my career of provocation. The attacks were beginning to get to me, and I was thinking: Is it really worth having every nice, right-thinking liberal person in the country hate you? READ MORE

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