Christopher Hitchens - Hitch-22 (4 stars)

Christopher Hitchens - Hitch-22


Many of history’s key figures have contradictory sides to their nature. Churchill was a focussed leader who often sank a quart of vodka before lunch. Hitler loved animals so much he couldn’t bring himself to chomp on them, but was less sentimental when it came to millions of humans. Napoleon was a towering military genius who got into uncontrollable furies over his lack of height. While Christopher Hitchens would no doubt blush at being bracketed with that lot (though considering the steadfastness of his opinions, you have to conclude that he is, at the very least, pretty sure of himself), he clearly shares their dualities.

Indeed, Hitch dubs himself a Janus, the god of Roman mythology who literally had two heads facing in opposite directions. He is Chris the Trot and Christopher the Oxford student dining expensively at fancy restaurants. An archetypal Englishman who ignored all of the USA’s vulgarities to become an American citizen; for those who fell in love with his writings about the left’s hate figures, the less said about his seeming shift to the right regarding US foreign policy the better.

Unlike in most of his journalism, Hitchens gives himself a freer rein here to push the emotional buttons a little harder; so, his sections on his parents (AKA his naval officer dad ‘The Commander’ and his mother Yvonne who killed herself in her twenties, an act that he is still brooding over) do show a softer side to the old polemicist. Love him or get really annoyed by him, you can’t ignore the fiery intellect and pure showmanship at play upon and between the lines of Hitch-22.

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