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Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

9:21 AM, Dec 16, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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I wasn’t a close friend of Christopher Hitchens—more like a friendly acquaintance—but he was so outsized a presence, had so fertile a mind, was gifted with such a bold personality, and was altogether so much larger than life that I already feel his loss deeply. I lack the gifts to convey what Christopher was like, and will defer to others who will undoubtedly do this with great skill. But in looking this morning, in a melancholy mood, at our email exchanges over the last year or so, I thought this one—perhaps precisely because it’s about nothing at all grand—captures something of his flair and spirit. Here’s Christopher, writing late in the evening of February 9, 2011:

Dear Bill,

Excellent issue on Egypt today. Quite daring in parts, as with RMG's [Reuel Mark Gerecht’s] bold humanism. I fear the current efflorescence is more likely to end with the triumph of traditional inertia than the victory of the MB, let alone the liberals, but it's still an imperishable moment.

However: "flout" for "flaunt" in the Weekly Standard! Deserves more than a tsk tsk. Also - and this with undimmed reverence - I think Beatrice was more of a divine distraction than a "guide" to Signor Alighieri. Virgil, also, might feel miffed.

I trust you thrive.

As always

Christopher

PS Might you forward me RMG's email? My laptop's brain has somehow mislaid it.

Matt Labash closes his remembrance with a few lines from Wilfred Owen, ones Christopher sent him shortly after Michael Kelly died, and comments that “Hitchens would probably shudder with horror and humility that I’d dare apply them to this occasion.” Christopher would probably shudder at my mawkishness (and would also mock my limited poetic range!), but it was these lines from Yeats that came to my mind when I heard of his death:

All shuffle there, all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbor knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?
 

Christopher did not walk that way.

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