Hitchens: the Final Rise of a Great

Christopher Hitchens Mortality book review

In December of last year, in the words of Salmon Rushdie, ‘a great voice falls silent. A great heart stops.’

They are indeed dramatic and saddened words that echoed around the press offices and news agencies of the world; alongside the hearts and minds of those who loved Hitchens, even in those who did not know him.

Ever since the untimely death of Hitchens, who was struck not by the cancer that infested his body, but rather the pneumonia that it triggered, his avid fans have been long waiting for the release of Mortality, a selected collection of essays dealing with the writer’s accounts of cancer and ‘tumourtown’, including too the everyday adjustments that he made to this unwelcomed reality.

For those who are not aware of this latest pu
blication however, they may in fact vaguely remember great furore surrounding the release of god is Not Great, a nourishing, splendid and entirely readable book that forever brought the name of Christopher Hitchens to the front of public consciousness.

With the 2007 publication, Hitchens warmly joined the ranks of the great new writers who had brought once a misted and largely inaccessible topic to the minds of those who didn’t read Vanity Fair, The Statesmen or who cared not for literary supplements in The Times.

Mortality however, released this September, some nine posthumous months after Hitchens’ death, represents some of the most poignant, heart wrenching and beautiful text not only to be released this year, but quite possibly in the five long decades of  Hitchens’ career.

With a forward from Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair and a sobering yet entirely beautiful afterward from Carol Blue, whose recollections and thoughts plunge at the reader’s heart like a sniper using tears for ammunition; the small book is already made worthy.

Yet the words of Christopher, who was dying throughout the entirety of the work, resonate the ferocity, splendid and charming power that he has always held. Ian McEwan, whose latest book, Sweet Tooth, is dedicated to Hitchens, described the author’s state a few months before his death:

“He can’t run a mile just now but be reassured, his Rolls-Royce mind is          purring smoothly.”

His Rolls-Royce mind is indeed entirely evident throughout the work, even to the last, faltering, precious lines in which he composed in his very final days.

Indeed, a great voice has fallen silent, but it is a voice that still continues to give, making the world a slightly more assured place to live, even just a little.

Could there be no more of a worthy outcome of a life unwasted?

Words by Andrew Jessop

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