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Remembering Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens in New York in 2005 (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

Tributes to the late Christopher Hitchens, who died seven years ago yesterday, are trending on Twitter. Hardly surprising. Hitchens had one of those rare, magnetic personalities and a genius for friendship according to some of the most talented writers around today such as Douglas Murray, Christopher Buckley, and Andrew Sullivan.

Also unsurprising is that Hitchens idolized George Orwell. Like Orwell, he embraced the sort of inner conflicts and contradictions that torment most writers. In Why Orwell Matters, Hitchens wrote:

What [Orwell] illustrates, by his commitment to language as the partner of truth, is that ‘views’ do not really count; that it matters not what you think, but how you think; and that politics are relatively unimportant, while principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.

This lived out is, I think, the essence of Hitchens’s intellectual “star quality.” And it is this, no doubt, which attracted the attention of William F. Buckley Jr. who gave the young Hitch a leg up by having him on Firing Line.

True, Christopher Hichens had many views that National Review readers might find abhorrent. But he was also a man of unusual and independent principle and deeply engaged in ideas that most of us lazily take for granted. Both Hitchens and Orwell had a proclivity for writing provocative, idiosyncratic, and timeless pieces. And both are, rightly, remembered for this.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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