View the trailer

The Hugh Hewitt Show

Listen 24/7 Live: Mon - Fri   6 - 9 AM Eastern
Call the Show 800-520-1234
European Voyage Cruise 2017 Advertisement

Christopher Hitchens on his memoir, Hitch-22

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

HH: Special edition of the Hugh Hewitt Show, which I am going to spend entirely with Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair columnist, author of the bestseller, God Is Not Great, and a new extraordinary memoir, Hitch-22. And Christopher Hitchens, welcome back, it’s great to talk with you.

CH: Very nice of you to have me.

HH: Now Christopher, since we last spoke, your illness you disclosed on the web, and people will want to know off the bat how you are doing, and how your treatment is going.

CH: Oh well, I have, in case people are just tuning in, I have cancer in my esophagus, which has I think spread a little to my lymph nodes as well. And I’m two weeks into the chemotherapy course. So I feel pretty weak, and my voice isn’t what it was, but that’s supposed to be a good sign in that the amount of poison I’m taking is presumably working on the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. And this morning, I found that my hair was beginning to come out in the shower, which is a bit demoralizing, I have to say, even though it’s the least of it.

HH: Well, I know you’ve received many well wishes, and I know my audience has been among them, and I’m very glad you could make the time today to talk about this book.

CH: No, everyone’s been extremely generous, and including, well, preeminently, yourself. Thank you.

HH: Well, let’s turn to this amazing book, because we had this set up for when you were diagnosed, and I’m glad you’re back in the saddle and able to talk about it today. And I think you may be my first guest who has actually ever passed out anti-Soviet newspapers in the streets of Havana in 1968. And actually, before you were diagnosed, I had written down this question. I want to ask it, because it’s the way I was going to do the interview to begin with. You’ve shaken hands with Oswald Mosley, and General Videla of Argentina, and Abu Nidal, and a whole bunch of other people. Who’s the most evil person you’ve met, Christopher Hitchens?

CH: Well, as Hannah Arendt famously said, there can be a banal aspect to evil. In other words, it doesn’t present always. I mean, often what you’re meeting is a very mediocre person. But nonetheless, you can get a sort of frisson of wickedness from them. And the best combination of those, I think, I describe him in the book, is/was General Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina, who I met in the late 1970s when the death squad war was at its height, and his fellow citizens were disappearing off the street all the time. And he was, in some ways, extremely banal. I describe him as looking like a human toothbrush. He was a sort of starch, lean officer with a silly mustache, and a very stupid look to him, but a very fanatical glint as well. And if I’d tell you why he’s now under house arrest in Argentina, you might get a sense of the horror I felt as I was asking him questions about all this. He’s in prison in Argentina for selling the children of the rape victims among the private prisoners, who he kept in a personal jail. And I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who’s done anything as sort of condensedly horrible as that, if you know what I mean.

HH: Yeah, and in fact, on Page 194 of Hitch-22, you pose that as a question. It was both arresting to know the detail, but you also write, “Do you know why” to you reader. “Well, do you,” you wrote. And I didn’t. And I’m curious as to why you used that technique at that point, asking your reader a question.

CH: Yes, I, well, when I write, as often as I can, I try to write as if I’m talking to people. It doesn’t always work, and one shouldn’t always try it, but I try and write as if I am talking, and trying to engage the reader in conversation. And sometimes, I get letters from people saying they feel they’ve been personally addressed. And I always think of that as a success.

HH: Well, that’s what got me at that point.

CH: So in this case, I’m taking them, I’m actually doing, I’m overdoing it perhaps a little, but I thought it merited it. I’m sort of taking them by the lapels and saying I’m sure you know, you think you know that there were a lot of people, as they called it, were disappeared in Argentina. The word disappear became a positive. Well, what am I trying to say? You didn’t disappear. You were disappeared. It was something that happened to you. It was done to you. I’m sure you know all this, or so you think you know, but actually do you have any idea of how bad it was?

HH: Actually, I didn’t. I didn’t even know his name, Christopher Hitchens, I’m ashamed to say, until I read your memoir.

CH: Well, he’s one of Henry Kissinger’s best friends. Kissinger was his personal guest at the World Cup in Argentina. He was a highly protected figure in America foreign policy at the time, even under the Carter administration, which is when I think I was meeting him, as a matter of fact. And he was, in the original sense of the word, really, a fascist. I mean, he believed that there was an international Jewish conspiracy to take over Argentina. He admired Mussolini, Franco. He fully believed in the protocols of the elders of Zion. My great friend, the late Jacobo Timerman, who was also disappeared for a considerable time, a Jewish newspaper editor in Buenos Aires, said that when he was being tortured in another private prison, his interrogators kept asking him so don’t you understand who our enemies are? Our enemies are Sigmund Freud, because he destroyed the Christian concept of the family, Albert Einstein, because he destroyed the Christian concept of the cosmos, and Karl Marx, because he destroyed the Christian idea of the organic economy. And do you think it’s coincidence all these three people are Jews? It was a very intense revisiting of the Nazi agenda in the southern continent of the Americas.

HH: He also posed a question to you, which I made a note of, that he argues with you in your recollection of your interview. Terrorism is not just killing with a bomb, but activating ideas. Separating that statement from the evil man who said it, cannot that be true, Christopher Hitchens?

CH: Yes, I daresay it can. I mean, I was asking, I knew he was going to say that there were various reasons why all this was going on. And I had ready with me an example I had been given by a human rights group in Argentina of a woman called Claudia Ines Grumberg, another Jewish woman. She was a quadriplegic. She’d last been seen being lifted into a police car with unmarked plates. And when I, he told about terrorism and bombing, and I mean, there were terrorists in Argentina at that time, I said well look, these allegations can’t be true in the case of this woman, because she wasn’t able even to move. He said, and without batting a lash, he said well in that case, she must have been guilty of some ideological offense. And I remember noticing a couple of his advisors blanching a bit as if they thought well, the supreme leader’s gone a bit far in saying that. He’s admitted too much. But…and I looked a bit surprised, too, and I think he mistook that, and repeated the answer as if for my benefit, in case I hadn’t understood. And clearly, what was important to him was getting rid of cosmopolitan, Jewish internationalists and people of this kind, because their mere existence in terms of ideas was a threat to his concept of the Argentine order.

HH: What’s interesting, though, to me…

CH: But yes, I mean, I’d have to answer you, I’m not dodging your question.

HH: Yeah.

CH: Yes, I mean, I think there is, if you like, a terrorism by incitement. I think it has to be very, very, very carefully isolated. But for example, the horrific pimp and runner of prostitutes in America, and later recruiter of bachelor virgin suicide killers, Sheik Awlaki, now in Yemen…

HH: That’s who I was going to ask you. It’s on my notes.

CH: Yeah, I mean, I agree with the president. I think he’s put himself in the crosshairs. He’s undoubtedly attempting, while not involving his own precious skin, as I say, he’s a pimp and a runner of hookers, and well known to be a very worldly guy, but he doesn’t mind signing up innocent frustrated, sexually thwarted kids for murder missions. I think he should be killed.

HH: Now I want to go to the other…

CH: In fact, if I had a wish, if what I’ve got turns out to be terminal, I wouldn’t mind my last act being an interview with him, followed by a nasty surprise. That would be, I’d feel then I was dying in a good cause.

HH: How much time are you spending on that thought, Christopher Hitchens?

CH: As little as I can, because it’s morbid and mock heroic.

HH: All right. I want to…

CH: But it avoids the boring thought that one is suffering, in effect, for no reason. I mean, I’m not suffering in a good cause, or witnessing for any, you know, great idea or anything or principle. It’s just boring.

HH: The number of people I’m sure who are praying for you, including people who come up to me and ask me to tell you that, people like Joseph Timothy Cook, how are you responding to them, given your famous atheism?

CH: Well look, I mean, I think that prayer and holy water, and things like that are all fine. They don’t do any good, but they don’t necessarily do any harm. It’s touching to be thought of in that way. It makes up for those who tell me that I’ve got my just desserts. It’s, I’m afraid to say it’s almost as well-founded an idea. I mean, I don’t, they don’t know whether prayer will work, and they don’t know whether I’ve come by this because I’m a sinner.

HH: Oh, I…has anyone actually said that to you?

CH: Yeah, oh yes.

HH: Oh, my gosh. Forgive them. Well…

CH: Well, I mean, I don’t mind. It doesn’t hurt me. But for the same reason, I wish it was more consoling. But I have to say there’s some extremely nice people, including people known to you, have said that I’m in their prayers, and I can only say that I’m touched by the thought.

– – – –

HH: Hitch-22 in bookstores now, and it references this song, Go Where You Want To Go by the Mamas And The Papas. In fact, there’s a lot of music in Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens, but I didn’t expect you to be, you know, taken by the Mamas And Papas when you were a young man.

CH: Well, when I was about 18, I suppose, I was in university, I remember, the album California Dreaming came out.

HH: Yes.

CH: And you know, it was a bit sugary in some ways, but I loved the way it sounded even so. And that particular song happened to jive with something I was experiencing at the time, and had been for a little while, which was a very strong need to see the United States. I couldn’t quite explain it. I even had little dreams sometimes about what it would be like going to America. And when I heard that song, it always gave me this huge yearning to cross the Atlantic.

HH: Now before the break, I mentioned I was going to ask you about the best people you met. This is, in many respects, a memoir of friendship – Martin Amis and Edward Said, and others throughout your entire life. Were they the best people that you knew? Is that who you look back as being the best? Or is it some public figure?

CH: No, I think they were, I mean, for me, there’s a cynical remark made by an Englishman, I think he was Hesketh Pearson, actually, who was a friend of G.K. Chesterton’s, who said a friend is God’s apology for relations. And when I was young, my family was perfectly nice. I write a lot about it, as you noticed. But it was rather limited. I think, I don’t think anyone in my family would really feel I’d done them an injustice by saying that. We didn’t see many people. There were many books. It was as if I wanted to get away from home. And so when I was able to choose my own company, I felt that was a huge stage in my own sort of self-emancipation. And then so friends are family to me.

HH: It is…

CH: Sorry.

HH: There’s a story in here, about Page 399-400, when you are Martin go to see Saul Bellow.

CH: Yes.

HH: And Saul Bellow, I want to quote here, “Saul Bellow didn’t know that I,” Christopher Hitchens, “was a close friend of Edward Said’s. But Martin did, thus, even though I knew he wanted me to stay off anything controversial, I couldn’t allow Bellow, couldn’t allow Martin to see me sitting there complicit while an absent friend was being defamed. For all he knew, if the company were sufficiently illustrious, I might even let the cock crow for him. That would surely never do.” I kind of stopped, and I said at this point, friendship may be the most important thing in Hitchens’ life.

CH: Yes, well it is, I think. It’s a form of solidarity, for one thing. And then it’s a form of love. And it deserves respect for that, too, wouldn’t you say?

HH: Yes, and how…

CH: And it also does demand something of you. In particular, I thought well, you know, Martin wanted me very much to meet his father figure, really, in the absence, after the death of his own dad, Saul Bellow, whom, for whom he was a great admirer, and had become a close friend. I knew it was the best favor he could offer me. I mean, an introduction to Saul, a dinner with Saul Bellow in Vermont was the most he had it in him to bestow. And so I knew I wanted to be at my best. I didn’t want to spoil the evening. And he knew I had a tendency to get involved in argument. And he said try to hold it down, because you know, that’s not what we want to talk about. And I couldn’t have agreed more. I wanted to talk about literature and reminisce with Bellow, which we did a lot of the time. But Bellow wanted to vent at great length about an article in Commentary Magazine about my late friend, Edward Said. And that article, I had my own differences with Edward, and I describe what they were, but this article, I thought, was grossly unfair, and I, after sitting through it for a bit, Bellow didn’t know that I was a friend of the person concerned. I thought I was going to have to say something, and I’m sorry. And I know Martin will hate it. So this was paying the cost of friendship, if you like, twice.

HH: Yeah.

CH: And Bellow, in fact, didn’t mind so much, and Bellow’s an old street fighter. He was an ex-Trotskyist like me, been, took part in many political polemics. He used to live in Chicago, where you don’t mince words, you know. But it was agony much more for Martin than it was for Saul. And that cost me a bit, too.

HH: How has Martin reacted to news of your illness?

CH: Well, he’s coming to see me next week. He’s…I guess I don’t really know yet. I haven’t seen him in person.

HH: How about Salman Rushdie? Have you heard from him?

CH: Oh, I’ve heard from, I mean, it’s been embarrassing, actually, how many people have written to me, or in default of that, or as well as that, written about me, either on the web or in print. It’s, I feel you know, when Mark Twain was pronounced dead in the newspapers, he said rumors of his death had been greatly exaggerated. I read so many nice things about myself now I begin to think that rumors of my life have been a bit exaggerated.

HH: (laughing)

CH: Apparently, some incredibly saintly person has got sick. Of course, I mean, I also realize with a twinge that you know, as time goes by, that’ll become background, too.

HH: Your memoir is soaked with names and stories of these memorable and significant contributors to fiction. But you wrote at Page 275, “I soon realized that I did not have the true stuff for fiction and poetry, and I was very fortunate indeed to have contemporaries, several practitioners of those arts who made it obvious to me, without unduly rubbing in the point, that I would be wasting my time if I tried.” How did they do that, Hitchens?

CH: Well, by their mere existence. I mean, they didn’t warn me off or anything. But when I was young, I knew I wanted to write. I knew it was all I wanted to do, and all that more or less I was able to do as it comes to that. But anyway, it was more it chose me than I chose it. And at university and later, I knew a lot of people who would, I mean, at that stage, I could have written poem or a short story. And I guess, even in current reduced state, I probably still could try something of the sort. But I was very lucky in meeting people who did it passionately and devotedly, and who just by osmosis, in other words, merely by reading their stuff and talking it over with them, and sometimes being shown it in early forms, I thought now wait a minute, they have a, there’s an X factor in what they can write that I don’t possess. And I have in my book a theory as to what that is, by the way. I don’t know if you remember it, but the distinction between people who can write prose and fiction and poetry, and those who can, should stay with the essay form, I think is this. All my friends who can do it have musical capacity.

HH: Oh, I remember now, yeah.

CH: In one form or another, they can either play, or they can appreciate, or they can describe a musical event in a fairly educated way. Since I was very young, in fact, the first thing I found that I really, really, really couldn’t do was play a musical instrument at any level, or understand musical theory or notation. It wasn’t that I was bad. No one ever says they’re good. It was I couldn’t do it. It was like being dyslexic.

HH: Well, you also say you have an incapacity for chess and mathematics.

CH: Yes, I’m deformed. I’m very short in all those departments. And those, I find, generally cluster, the ability at chess and math and music. So I thought okay, I’ve got, I’ve only got one side of the brain, I keep forgetting which one it is, that works. The other is sort of walnut-sized. I think I’d do better to stay with the essayistic form.

HH: Are you aware of anyone who lacks that musical ability who is also a great novelist?

CH: Well, I get any leisure, I’ve been encouraged to develop this theory, because it seems that there must be something to it. I mean, you know, Shakespeare is full of music, for example, so is Proust. Nabokov is a very strong test. He didn’t like music. He didn’t like having it played to him. But he knew quite a lot about it and appreciated it. The more one goes into it, the more it seems like quite a useful, possible theory. But I’ve only got to its very crude adumbration so far.

– – – –

HH: A little Robert Dylan in the background there, Christopher Hitchens, another of the musical people that you refer to throughout the book, obviously impacting the 60s and your years in university. Have you kept up the taste for Bob Dylan?

CH: Yes. I also think, I mean, as well as being…he’s no longer a great singer. His voice is shot. And not as badly as mine, but it’s gone. But he used to have a very beautiful voice. There’s a wonderful song, I wish I’d mentioned it to you earlier. We could have played Spanish Is The Loving Tongue, a very hauntingly, beautiful song. And he had a lovely voice, but he was also, I think, a great poet. And he was the background music to a lot of people of my age. I don’t take a lot of stock in generational thought, as you know. I think generational solidarity is the lowest form of solidarity there is. But I think that for every decade or so, every generational set, there is a special voice. And certainly for my lot, it was him. And I would have liked him if he’d only written about lost love and blues and so on. But he also had a few things to say about the war and the civil rights movement, and so on.

HH: You’ve got a lot of commentary on poetry and poets in Hitch-22 – James Fenton, Philip Larkin, Auden, Clive James. Do you think some people have the incapacity for poetry that you have for chess and mathematics? Because I think I might be among them.

CH: Oh, I’d be very sorry to think that. I mean, well, what do you think of the liturgy, for example? What do you think about the Book of Job?

HH: Well, yes, you’re right. I do love that poetry.

CH: For man is born for trouble, As sparks fly upward?

HH: Yeah.

CH: That’s poetry.

HH: It’s harder, though. And I’m curious as to…

CH: I actually, I say this to my students, because the art of poetry recitation, say, I mean, just to stand up or even sit down and be able to speak a Shakespeare sonnet seems to have gone, and it’s certainly no longer taught. And people, I can do it, and people look at me as if I was doing something almost supernatural. And I say well look, you all know the lyrics to several songs, and they all do. Even without knowing it, they know them. They know them almost just by acquaintance.

HH: That’s right.

CH: By attrition, perhaps, almost in some cases. But they think of poetry as something different, as a whole new reservation.

HH: So are poets more tragic than the fiction writers you’ve known? Or are they the same kind of character?

CH: I think that if I take, say, my two favorite English poets, the ones I most often recur to, are Philip Larkin and W.H. Auden. Both of them have a great understanding of tragedy, and a keen feeling of, you know, in some ways, the absurdity of the human condition. But it’s also from the absurdity that they draw things that are quite mordantly funny as well. I don’t think it’s possible to have a sense of tragedy without having a sense of humor.

HH: Okay. I’ve got to ask before we get to the break…

CH: Oh, that’s why we think so highly of Shakespeare, I think, is that he’s able to perform on both of those registers with such acuity.

HH: And his history as well. Let me ask you about Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley.

CH: Yes.

HH: Would you tell the audience why it had such an impact on you?

CH: Yes, when I was quite small, I suppose about ten or eleven, I came across a tattered paperback of a book that your older listeners may have heard of or read. The author was Richard Llewellyn, and the book is called How Green Was My Valley. It’s not a question. It’s a way of saying in Welsh how green my valley was, how green was my valley. And it’s a wonderful account of growing up as a young boy in a very self-enclosed community of Welsh-speaking coal miners in the valleys of the southern part of Wales. And I was living then on just the other side of the Bristol channel in southern England, in the rural part of the country, and only a few hundred miles away from this. And this book described to me the life of people almost on another planet, though they were very close kinned. But they worked underground like the people in H.G. Wells, the Morlocks. They spoke another language. They joined unions and went on strike. There was even a disobliging reference to Winston Churchill in this book. I’d never come across a disobliging reference to Winston Churchill before, because as home secretary in 1911, he’d sent the British army to put down the Welsh coal miners in a big strike in the Rhonda Valley. And it was just tremendously eye-opening to me to know the existence of this, not just of the people of another class, but in a way, almost another race and nation and language. And I got to the stage where I could almost have it memorized. It meant an enormous amount to me. It was also a very good bildungsroman, if you want, about this young boy, Hugh Morgan, and his growing up, and the best rites of passage that he underwent. It was an electrifying read. I read it again the other day. It’s still pretty good.

HH: You know, I think it’s going to spark, Hitch-22 is going to spark a revival in How Green Was My Valley.

– – – –

HH: Christopher Hitchens, I’d like to talk to you about your mom and dad at this point. Do you still have your mother’s last letter to you?

CH: Yes.

HH: And where do you keep it? And how often do you read it?

CH: I have the same now-rather battered and flaking envelope of all her possessions and, such as they were, and all the relevant documents and the things that she left for me that was given to me by the British embassy in Athens after her funeral in 1973. I have it all in one place. And I look at it not very often these days.

HH: How often do you think of…

CH: But I know it, well, for one thing, I know it by heart.

HH: That’s…how often do you recollect it?

CH: For another, I am not a great one for relics or mementos. I’m not a great keeper of things. Actually, one of my big regrets in my life now is there are a lot of letters and things like that from people, interesting people, that I didn’t bother to keep, as I’ve often had to move in a hurry, and didn’t want to be burdened with carrying too much. So I’ve always resolved on the side of not being a packrat, even a sentimental one.

HH: Now you do not disclose the contents, I’m not going to ask you what they are, but I wonder, have you ever allowed anyone else to read it?

CH: No.

HH: And will you leave it for your children?

CH: Yes, I suppose I will. I don’t think it’ll be very meaningful to them. The problem with it is, actually, I think I must have shown it to my brother, come to think of it, some years ago, but not to my father. For him, it would have been too painful. I should perhaps explain why this is?

HH: Yes.

CH: My mother took her own life in Athens, in company with her lover when their affair just wasn’t working out, and it was a time when divorce and adultery was still very scandalous in the English middle class. And it wasn’t working out, and I think my mother couldn’t see things getting any better, and didn’t want to go on living. This was a very, obvious very awful for me to discover, but I had known about the boyfriend, which my father had not. And awful for my father to discover, because it meant he discovered it through the, the announcement came in the newspapers. It was actually reported she’d been murdered. I mean, he was a very private and reticent man, and it was, I think, terribly shocking to him to realize everyone now knew that his wife wasn’t living with him anymore. And he didn’t want to know, when I came back, he didn’t want to hear that I discovered that in fact it was a suicide act. It wasn’t a murder, so, and didn’t want to discuss it any further. And he was a very, very, very quiet man in that way. The second thing was that the note was written, I sort of wish she hadn’t done this, but she, in her extremity, she addressed it just to me, I think thinking that I was the one who’d be able to come to Athens.

HH: I see.

CH: And I wish she hadn’t done that, because it, you know, it rather left my other male Hitchens out in the cold.

HH: The portrait of your…

CH: And I had to, it took me a while to, I’d wanted to protect them from that thought, if you see what I mean.

HH: Yes, yes. The portrait of your mother is achingly tender, and a very powerfully loving portrait of your father as well. In fact, I knew I was caught by your book after that, because I knew you were going to be just breathtakingly honest in the course of this book. How difficult was it to write these portraits?

CH: Well, I knew I’d have to do it one day, and I knew if I was ever going to do a memoir, I’d have to confront it. And the one about my mother I wrote first off, when the publisher first asked me. And I did it in one night, in one go, and sent it off after I’d read it, and wept, which I did more than I thought I was going to do. But I thought also to myself, would it make anyone else cry? I don’t want it to do that. I don’t want it to be mawkish. I want to be better judged than that. So I said to the publisher, and my editor, a very trusted guy, if this works, then I think I can do the book. If you don’t think it does, I’m not sure I should go on. And that has taken me since 1973. I’d often thought of trying to write about it, but to put it off.

HH: Well, it’s not mawkish.

CH: Well, thank you for saying that. No one else, no one has said it is. It shouldn’t, I think, bring a tear to anyone else’s eye, but it should make people understand why it would to mind. And then the necessary counterpart, that was a bit harder to write, was about my father, and why his life was so, was such a sad one.

HH: You know, I know a lot of naval officers and Marine Corps officers who fought in the same war as your father did, and as reserved as he is. And I thought that was an amazing story as well. But I wanted to ask you about one note on Page 369 about the Commander.

CH: Yes.

HH: “Apart from the traditional stories of British daring, the only example of heroism and gallantry ever related to me by the Commander,” your father, “was of the Francoist General Jose Moscardo, who refused to surrender the besieged Alcazar, even when the Red forces threatened to execute his son, Luis.” What did you make of your father picking this one story to tell you, Christopher?

CH: Well, at the time, I didn’t know it. He just gave it me as an example of stoicism, courage in the face of the foe. And I would have been about eight, I suppose. But as I grew up and got to know him better, and also had discovered a bit more about what had been going on in the generation before I was born, I realized how right wing my father was. I mean, he was a very, very conservative person indeed, and I think, and I know from his letters, the very few that remain, that he was very strongly pro-Franco in the Spanish civil war. He had a slight sympathy for Mussolini as well. He wouldn’t have, I think, have had any truck at all with any sympathy for Hitler, but he was rather an authoritarian, or an admirer of people who were, rather.

HH: Your brother arrives…

CH: He would often come up with very alarming remarks. I mean, I remember when I asked him once about, or rather, he actually asked me when I had been reporting from Northern Ireland at a certain stage, he said oh, what do you think should happen there, and I was sort of moaning on about this and that, and power sharing, and civil rights and all this, and he said well, what I think is it needs a jolly good dose of martial law. That’s what he sounded like, as if, I think I say it in the book, as if the British had never tried the use of force in Ireland before.

HH: Yeah, you do say that in the book.

CH: And it was time to give it a workout.

HH: It’s a good laugh out loud line.

– – – –

HH: Christopher Hitchens, your brother, Peter, arrives on the scene of Hitch-22 relatively late, though with some very sincere, respectful nods. And I’m curious, was he friends with any of your friends? Could he even pass a day with Martin Amis?

CH: Oh yeah, he could do that all right, but he’s just, there’s a crucial difference in age between us. I used not to notice things like birth order and age difference and so on until I became a parent myself. And I actually now think it may have some relevance. Then, I thought well, what does it mean for me, and realized that my brother was born about a year and a half after me, more like…in other words, near enough to be a rival, if you see what I mean, and not far enough down to be below, to be a baby brother in need of protection. And so we were, it’s a narrow, but deep difference between boys at that age. And it goes on for life, and you go to boarding school as we did eventually at different times, and were in different classes in the same school. It’s awkward, or can be. We weren’t very much alike in temperament. If I were to liken temperament at all, I was much more like my mother, and he very like my old man. And, well, as time went on, we grew up. We were very seldom in the same town, we didn’t go to the same university. We adopted the same career, interesting.

HH: Yes.

CH: I don’t think he did it at all to emulate me, and I’m sure he had the same feeling as I did, that it’s the only real, being a writer is the only real life for a gentleman. But he’s a very different kind of journalist from the one I am, I think, very good indeed at what he does.

HH: And has he reacted to Hitch-22 yet?

CH: We don’t have that many friends in common, but actually, none of my friends has any difficulty appreciating the point of him. It’s just that he can be rather abrupt.

Advertise With UsAdvertisement
Sierra Pacific Mortgage
Back to Top