Quoting Hitchens

I have two items for you today, both specific to Christopher Hitchens.

The first is the letter that he has written. He was scheduled to appear at a conference of atheists during the weekend, but sadly had to cancel due to his illness, so he wrote them a letter instead. Now remember, this is a man that has a true gift with the written word, so while his voice might indeed have been absent, his thoughts and words have now instead been spread far a wide via this open letter, perhaps far further than initially planned, here are some extracts to tempt you to read it all …

[Has absence] … is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death. Nobody ever wins this argument, though there are some solid points to be made while the discussion goes on. I have found, as the enemy becomes more familiar, that all the special pleading for salvation, redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before. I hope to help defend and pass on the lessons of this for many years to come, but for now I have found my trust better placed in two things: the skill and principle of advanced medical science, and the comradeship of innumerable friends and family, all of them immune to the false consolations of religion.

we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations.

I really like the bit in bold, it strikes a cord of truth and is very quotable. Please go read it all, you can do so here.

Now, on to the second item. Martin Amis, a close friend of Hitchens going back many years, and also colleague at the New Statesman, has written a piece in last Sundays edition of the Observer, in  which he pulls out some very nice quotes he has gathered over the years. He observes … (well, it is the Sunday Observer that he is writing in) …

Christopher is one of the most terrifying rhetoricians that the world has yet seen. Lenin used to boast that his objective, in debate, was not rebuttal and then refutation: it was the “destruction” of his interlocutor. This isn’t Christopher’s policy – but it is his practice.

Christopher’s most memorable rejoinders, I have found, linger, and reverberate, and eventually combine, as chess moves combine.

Martin Amis then proceeds to give four specific examples of just how sharp and quick Hitchens truly is, here is a segment of the first …

He was on TV for the second or third time in his life …At a certain point in the exchange, Christopher came out with one of his political poeticisms, an ornate but intelligible definition of (I think) national sovereignty. His host – a fair old bruiser in his own right – paused, frowned, and said with scepticism and with helpless sincerity, “I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

“I’m not in the least surprised,” said Christopher, and moved on.

To read the other three, or for that matter, the entire article, you can simply click here.


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