The usual duty of the “intellectual” is to argue for complexity and to insist that phenomena in the world of ideas should not be sloganized or reduced to easily repeated formulae.–Christopher Hitchens
Most people probably did not know Christopher Hitchens–unless they were among the few who would read The Times Literary Supplement–until he published his book on atheism entitled “God is Not Great”. Pious accouterments notwithstanding he argues that there is no God (capital G) and that the church has been criminal rather than kind. If that is not audacious enough his previous books include an attack on Mother Theresa, who he calls a fraud, and Henry Kissinger, who he calls a murderer.
Most of Hitchen’s new memoir “Hitch 22” is about his education at Oxford and his work in journalism writing for such magazines as New Statesman. But my favorite sections are where he talks of his friendships with the British writers Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie and the poet James Fenton. If you read The Atlantic Monthly you know that Hitchens is a literary critic. It is this aspect of his work that interests me more. He writes of the poetry of W.H. Auden and praises Nabokov and Ian Mcewan. I wish he had discussed more those books that had influenced him and guided his intellectual development rather than write about his work covering wars because so many ordinary people can do that. I am more impressed with his volume of reading and moreover his retention putting him the in the league of the great literary critics like Edmund Wilson.
Hitchens mentions George Orwell frequently in his memoir having studied the man and written a book called “Why Orwell Matters” defending him in the face of criticism from other socialists on the left. I think the reason that Hitchens admires George Orwell so much is their thinking has evolved in the same manner. Orwell was a communist who went to Spain to fight the civil war getting shot in the neck for his efforts. There he saw that the Soviets were more helpful to the fascists than the communists and anarchists and turned against the Stalinists of which his native England was filled. Orwell was a member of the movement called the “International Socialist” of which Hitchens was himself a member. Orwell then famously turn against those communists who turned a blind eye to the dictator and parodied the same in two books “Animal Farm” and “1984” which have been misrepresented to a generation of high school students as a critic of socialism of any kind.
(5) Readers Comments
February 21, 2017
February 05, 2017
Thank you, K.C. You are the first person to tell me that s/he caught
Jordan is clearly an intellectual omnivore who can laugh at himself an
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