The Magazine

Farewell to Flashman

The singular creation of George MacDonald Fraser, 1925-2008.

Jan 21, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 18 • By CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
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In later years, and partly for purposes of tax exile, Fraser withdrew to the Isle of Man: one of the better-preserved of the British Isles and a place which reminded him, as he said, of England as it used to be. I talked to him by phone on his 80th birthday--"Same day as Charlemagne, Casanova, Hans Christian Andersen, and Kenneth Tynan," as he stoutly told me--and found him suitably reactionary. In 1969, when Flashy first stepped onto the page (or should I say back onto the page where Thomas Hughes had left him?), it would have been well-nigh impossible to imagine that British soldiers would be again in action in the historic battle-honor territories of Afghanistan and Mesopotamia. But now that they were back, George MacDonald Fraser was not in the least bit delighted: "Tony Blair is not just the worst prime minister we've ever had, but by far the worst prime minister we've ever had. It makes my blood boil to think of the British soldiers who've died for that little liar."

It is an illustration of historic irony, and of the bizarre operations of fortune's wheel, that that very tone of voice should now be an indicator of the outlook of the British Right.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man: A Biography.