The Grim Reaper

January 9th, 2012

For anyone who cared about what’s going on in the world, the death of Christopher Hitchens was a Steve Jobs moment. When he died last month at the age of 62 due to esophageal cancer, it was the end of what may very rightfully be termed as a Hitchens era. There’s probably no major publication where Hitchens wasn’t published or translated. He was a regular writer for Slate and Vanity Fair. So vast was his erudition that he can be equally dexterous while talking about oral sex and waterboarding.

Hitchens’ journalistic oeuvre is a case study in the retention power of human brain. His friends, among whom are Iam McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, would recall that he used to recall verses and passages of the great masters of literature from the back of his hand. Nothing used to escape Hitchens hawk eye and his snark. He never endeared himself to the masses or maybe that’s how he wanted it. He was critical of Mother Teresa, Pope, Dalai Lama and even God. His book “God Is Not Great” is a, pardon the irony here, Bible for atheists. So caustic are his comments that the one at the receiving end is better off remaining silent.

Hitchens once branded Mother Teresa “a lying, thieving Albanian dwarf” and said: “She was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

He also branded religion as “junk science” and claimed Christianity is “leaving us as the mockery of the world by pretending that we did not evolve.”

About Sarah Palin he said “She’s got no charisma of any kind [but] I can imagine her being mildly useful to a low-rank porn director.”

So brilliant are his turns of phrases, a result of his Oxbridge education, that he would elevate even the most mundane topic to the realms of fascination. He is known to have churned out perfectly readable essays in twenty minutes. Hitchens did have his own limitations though. One look at his copious amounts of work and you would notice that this man is a sexist par excellence. He once even wrote an essay for Vanity Fair on “why women aren’t funny”. There’s no woman in his exalted friends circle. None of the hagiographical essays that he wrote included a woman.

His championing of Iraq War too was a baffling decision and till date it’s a mystery why he defended George W Bush in his deluded decision to dig out the non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Having said that, Hitchens is one of the most original journalists you’ll ever read. None of his arguments, however misplaced, are bland or unoriginal. He is very prolific and is known to write his perfectly readable thousand-word column for Slate in flat twenty minutes.

It’s appropriate to have a coda in the form of a Salman Rushdie quote (about Hitchens) “the most indefatigable of allies and the most eloquent of defenders”.

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