Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, who died in 2011 at the age of 62, wrote several dozen pieces for the LRB between 1983 and 2002. A Hitch in Time, a collection of some of them, is published by Atlantic.

11 September 1973: Crimes against Allende

Christopher Hitchens, 11 July 2002

I have a more or less fixed memory of the end of the Sixties. In the autumn of 1970 I went to join a strike picket at the General Motors plant in Fremont, California. Handy for Berkeley and Oakland, the factory was one of the salients of a national labour shutdown that was scheduled to begin at 12 o’clock at night. In the ranks of supporters were hardened veterans of the battle against...

Done Deal: Nixon in China

Christopher Hitchens, 5 April 2001

Henry Luce​ – who coined the catchphrase about ‘the American Century’ – once said that the crucial event of that century would be the Christianisation of China. He meant the Protestant evangelisation of China; it would have been no less absurd to propose the conversion of the Chinese to Judaism, but there was a time when millions of American homes gave little...

Performing Seals: The PR Crowd

Christopher Hitchens, 10 August 2000

A man I met told me that F.R. Leavis had once been invited to Columbia University to talk, and was afterwards bidden to a reception in his own honour. The co-editor of Scrutiny had been very much himself and, after his departure, was discussed as visitors tend to be. A certain elderly member of the English Department even observed: ‘He seemed perfectly all right to me. I can’t think why everybody calls him “Queenie”.’‘

Novelists can be lucky in their editors, in their friends, in their mentors and even in their pupils. Sometimes they are generous or sentimental enough to fictionalise the relationship. In Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell gave his friendless, dowdy and self-pitying protagonist Comstock one true pal: the editor and patron Ravelston, proprietor of the small yet reliable magazine Antichrist. This Ravelston – some composite of Sir Richard Rees and John Middleton Murry – was a hedonistic yet guilt-ridden dilettante, good in a pinch, and soft on poets, but too easily embarrassed by brute exigence. Saul Bellow – who has already shown a vulnerability to exigent poets in his wonderful Humboldt’s Gift – now presents us with Ravelstein, a hedonistic kvetch who manifests patience towards none. As is known to all but the meanest citizens of the republic of letters, the novel is an obelisk for the late Allan Bloom, author of the 1987 shocker The Closing of the American Mind. This book, which was a late product or blooming of the University of Chicago Committee on Social Thought, argued that the American mind was closed because it had become so goddamned open – a nice deployment of paradox and a vivid attack on the relativism that has become so OK on campus these days. Bloom’s polemic swiftly became a primer for the right-wing Zeitgeist; a bookend for the shelf or index sternly marked ‘all downhill since 1967’. And even then, there were those who detected a Bellovian lending, or borrowing as the case might be.’‘

Diary: The Candidates for the 2000 Presidency

Christopher Hitchens, 6 January 2000

It was in San Diego, California in the late summer of 1996 that the working hacks finally tumbled to what they had done. A Republican National Convention had been arranged, as a sort of soundstage or a mixed-media event, entirely for the convenience of the press and TV. The delegates were mere extras on the set, the coronation of the two nominees was a sure thing, the feral extremists and fundamentalists had been tidied out of sight, the corporate-sponsorship logos were beautifully placed, the camera angles and background briefings were the chief preoccupation of the Party managers and – there was exactly nothing to cover, nothing to transmit, and nothing to write about. A day or so passed, in this city of sinister charm (once described by Gore Vidal as ‘the Vatican of the John Birch Society’), in an agony of boredom and irrelevance. And then the ABC News Nightline team, the flagship of supposedly serious coverage, announced that it was vacating its skybox and leaving town. No story. Thus did the grand tradition of Convention reporting – a tradition that spans Mencken and Ed Murrow – come to its close in bathos and ennui. And ask anyone what they can remember about the utterly null Democratic Convention in Chicago a week or so later: the only possible comment was by way of pointed contrast to the same Convention in the same city in 1968, when politics was still for real. (The Mayor of Chicago is still called Richard Daley, but with the mediocre son all resemblance ends.)’‘

In his book about religion, Peter Hitchens has a lot more to say about his brother Christopher than Christopher has to say about Peter in his book about himself.* ‘Some brothers get...

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The Positions He Takes: Hitchens on Paine

John Barrell, 30 November 2006

‘If the rights of man are to be upheld in a dark time, we shall require an age of reason,’ wrote Christopher Hitchens last year on the dust jacket of Harvey Kaye’s recent book...

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Winning is very important to Christopher Hitchens. Dr Johnson was said to ‘talk for victory’, and by all accounts it seems the same might be said of Hitchens. He certainly writes for...

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In this short book, Christopher Hitchens sets down the main charges against Kissinger: murder, violation of human rights and complicity in mass atrocities on a scale equalled only by Eichmann,...

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‘The crude commercialism of America, its materialising spirit, its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination and of high unattainable ideals are entirely due...

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Why Calcutta?

Amit Chaudhuri, 4 January 1996

Among the welter of images and mythologies that constitute the middle-class Bengali’s consciousness – P3 and Ganesh underwear, the Communist hammer and sickle, Lenin’s face,...

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Against it

Ross McKibbin, 24 February 1994

Christopher Hitchens may not be ‘the nearest thing to a one-man band since I.F. Stone laid down his pen’, but he comes close. For the Sake of Argument records a life of action, of...

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Further Left

R.W. Johnson, 16 August 1990

Many years ago it was the habit of the PPE tutors in Magdalen College, Oxford to hold a discussion group for their undergraduates. At one such meeting we were somewhat disconcerted to find we had...

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Royalties

John Sutherland, 14 June 1990

Deference to royalty in this country is enforced by a judicial and popular savagery which is always there but only occasionally glimpsed. The glimpses are instructive. In 1937 the diplomat...

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Opportunities

David Gilmour, 1 June 1989

Hitchens was right to go West. He needed lusher plains of political corruption across which to spread himself. He needed a country of wide horizons and myopic international vision. And he needed...

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Passionate Purposes

Keith Kyle, 6 September 1984

There used to be a type of book known as the ‘Secret History’ of some international problem. With some passion, extensive citation of material, and a somewhat self-regarding manner,...

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