As with many other important things, I found out on a regular visit to the BBC’s news website that Christopher Hitchens had died. Many of his regular readers, or fans, if you will, were expecting this news ever since his cancer was discovered. It is normally the custom in honouring the dead, to start with a platitude about life, living or death. I feel that this would be a tired cliche, and could be found in orbituaries and other such memoriam posts around the internet and print media.
If there’s one thing I can say about Hitchens is that he wrote broadly. Hitchens was well read and the ‘texts’ which he imbibed in varied from political philosophy, new atheism, English Literature to the more lowbrow nuances of popular culture. Hitchens covered a wide range of bases which captured the zeitgeist of the past three or four decades, and from my limited life experience, he captured the 2000s pretty well, for an author of a elder age where youth was emphasised in the public sphere, he showed a razor sharp understanding of the times and even when his interpretations and analyses were often disputed vehemently, he provoked a discussion on topics which one would not normally consider.
Hitchens in various parts of his ‘Arguably’ anthology, alludes to figures whom he has been compared to, such as Gore Vidal and George Orwell. The former in his social views and public profile, and perhaps the latter, in that both were journalists with a conscientious socialist bent. Hitchens proved that the journalist could be an intellectual, and in an ever changing world, the agenda and focii of the intellectual should also broaden.My own influence from Hitchens would be that he showed the possibility and desirability of combining elements from disperate subject matters, traditions and merging of a ‘high’ cultural corpus with a ‘low’ cultural focus to create focussed articles which were more readable than the literary and intellectual figures which he would reference. The passing of his life also represents to me a changing mindset and environment going on around the world. In the way that people would talk about historical moments such as the 1968 student movement, or the fall of the Berlin Wall. I suspect that 2011 would be the year of dissent and global disquiet about the status quo.