Our Best Writer

by Seth Leibsohn

Christopher Hitchens has succumbed, at the age of 62, to complications from esophageal cancer. Christopher Hitchens was mostly a man of the left — but the honest left. He hated hypocrisy and was willing to debate anyone, anywhere. He lived hard, some of his views were hard to take, but his wit and his writing were unparalleled. In fact, for most of my professional life I have cited him as the best writer in America. His book on Bill Clinton’s lies was a masterpiece, his autobiography, Hitch-22, was one of the best books of the past ten years. Yes, he was a confirmed atheist and over the past several years, that is what he spent most of his time talking and debating about.  

But go back to what he wrote and argued on Clinton, go back to what he wrote on Iraq, and on so many other issues and you will see a talent too rare in the public intellect today. One of his editors wrote this late last night: “There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar. Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls.” Just to give you a sense of his gift with the written word, a small recent sample. Here is how he described what happened after the Shah fell in Iran: “At the moment when Iran stood at the threshold of modernity, a black winged ghoul came flapping back from exile on a French jet and imposed a version of his own dark and heavy uniform on a people too long used to being bullied and ordered around.” 

My last correspondence with Christopher was one where he helped me locate a quote for a book I was working on. And he did so with great cheer, always willing to help in the pursuit of the intellectual argument.

As I mentioned, he was also the most articulate defender of our cause in liberating Iraq. And so with some measure of something, not quite irony, certainly not justice, but some meaning nonetheless, Mr. Hitchens leaves our world the same day our troops conclusively leave Iraq, a campaign his moral sword and voice proved critically important for in its support and justification.

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