Author and contrarian Christopher Hitchens dies at age 62

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens speaking in 2007 at The Amazing Meeting 5 (TAM5) conference in Las Vegas.
Image: ensceptico.

British-born author, journalist and political commentator Christopher Hitchens has died yesterday aged 62 at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, following a diagnosis of esophageal cancer in June 2010.

Hitchens was born in 1949 in Portsmouth. After graduating from Oxford with a third-class degree in politics, philosophy and economics in 1970, Hitchens wrote for the Times Higher Educational Supplement briefly, before moving on to the New Statesman where he met the novelist Martin Amis. After moving to the United States in 1981, he started writing for U.S.-based publications like Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and Slate.

In more recent years, Hitchens sided with George W. Bush in supporting the war in Iraq, and also went on to write a polemical book on religion, God Is Not Great, following a theme apparent in his earlier debunking efforts towards Mother Teresa—"a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud" according to Hitchens. The death of Jerry Falwell raised Hitchens' ire, stating that it is "a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to" and calling him a "faith-based fraud".

In his memoirs, Hitch-22, he wrote of a sexual encounter with two (unnamed) male members of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet. Hitchens was well-known for his drinking and smoking habits, consuming 50,000 cigarettes a year according to one report, and drinking enough every day "to stun the average mule" (according to Hitchens himself). The discovery of cancer last year was, according to Hitchens, "something so predictable and banal that it bores even me".

Salman Rushdie, whom Hitchens had supported against Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa, wrote on Twitter following Hitchens' death: "Goodbye, my beloved friend. A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops".

Hitchens was not close to his brother Peter Hitchens, a conservative columnist. He is survived by wife Carol Blue, daughter Antonia, and two children Alexander and Sophia from an earlier marriage.