Friends pay tribute to Christopher Hitchens

Colleagues, admirers and close acquaintances of the late, celebrated writer share their thoughts online

Published December 16, 2011 6:30PM (EST)

 Christopher Hitchens.     (AP/Chad Rachman)
Christopher Hitchens. (AP/Chad Rachman)

The death of Christopher Hitchens -- the sharp, controversial and almost unbelievably prolific journalist and commentator -- sent admirers into mourning, caused the New York Times to redraw its Friday front page, and inspired friends and colleagues to take to TV, radio and the Internet to express their appreciation and grief. Here are links to some of the most notable tributes we've found:

  • Many of Hitchens' friends, colleagues and admirers have commented on his passing on Slate. Novelist Julian Barnes recounts a "cruel" but ultimately "useful" lesson from the master writer. James Fenton reflects on "the deep significance becoming an American citizen held for [Hitchens]." ("I hadn’t realized the need Christopher felt to belong to something. He was far too satirical to show it.") Guardian columnist Alexander Chancellor adds: "The appeal of brilliant contrarianism knows no boundaries."
  • In a BBC interview, novelist Ian McEwan shares memories of his friend -- including an anecdote from Hitchens' book tour in the Bible Belt. ("Colossal crowds would turn out to greet him enthusiastically, and many would say ... 'Thank you for coming; we are not only the Bible Belt. There are many rational people down here who also believe that religion is a man-made thing.")
  • In the same interview, British Labour politician Denis McShane offers Hitchens high praise: "[Hitchens] was the greatest English journalist in America -- I think even bigger than Alastair Cooke, and that's saying something."
  • Salman Rushdie tweeted: "Goodbye, my beloved friend. A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops. Christopher Hitchens, April 13, 1949-December 15, 2011." Stephen Fry -- another super-Twitterer -- added: "Goodbye, Christopher Hitchens. You were envied, feared, adored, reviled and loved. Never ignored. Never bested. A great and marvellous man."
  • On Vanity Fair's website, editor Graydon Carter writes: "[Hitchens] was a man of insatiable appetites — for cigarettes, for scotch, for company, for great writing, and, above all, for conversation. That he had an output to equal what he took in was the miracle in the man."
  • GQ has published thoughts from a number of Hitchens' colleagues, including Simon Schama and Hugo Rifkind. "We took to each other fast but he fell really hard for my dog, a handsome Welsh Springer with a tragic air called Morgan," Schama writes of his first meeting with Hitchens. "Hitchens was one of the very few writers (the only others who spring to mind are Winston Churchill and Douglas Adams; there must be more) who have said something brilliant about almost everything," Rifkind adds.
  • "How did we become such friends?" Christopher Buckley asks in a New Yorker essay -- before answering that question many times over. "Everything [Hitchens] said was brilliant. It was a feast of reason and a flow of soul, and, if the author of 'God Is Not Great' did not himself believe in the concept of soul, he sure had one, and it was a great soul."
  • Finally, writing in The Nation, D.D. Guttenplan articulates a sentiment many Hitchens-lovers will no doubt share: "By no means the least of the consolations now available to the unbeliever, and to those who live outside the lines of conventional virtue, is the thought that if we turn out to be mistaken in our Cartesian wagers, and find ourselves in the long, long chute to a smoke-and-brimstone filled afterlife, Christopher will be there at the bottom to welcome us with a drink and, why not, a cigarette."

By Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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Christopher Hitchens R.i.p.