Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hitch 22: Confessions and Contradictions by Christopher Hitchens

Hitch 22: Confessions and ContradictionsHitch 22: Confessions and Contradictions by Christopher Hitchens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book opens with Hitchens' experience of reading news of his own demise in a catalogue for an exhibition that described him as 'the late Christopher Hitchens', thus encouraging him to set down his memoir whilst he was still alive to do so. This has been further been given an air of almost unbearably poignant irony by his recent diagnosis of cancer of the esophagus, but this is not the place to dwell on that.

He follows a fairly structured route of memories of his mother and father, his schooldays in a series of grim public schools, his encounters with the socialist movement in the sixties and his time as a journalist in the booze addled Fleet Street of the seventies. He discourses on friends and acquaintances from Martin Amis to Salman Rushdie and Edward Said, and describes the things that drew them together as well as honestly setting down their differences. Needless to say, there are many humorous anecdotes to be found as well with an early encounter with a surprisingly saucy Margaret Thatcher provoking a laugh from me.

Through his life his political views have changed somewhat from his early left wing leanings, although he has been absolutely resolute in his opposition to tyranny of all forms, particularly when it takes its authority from theocracy. Thus, he demonstrates how he can support wars in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq without necessarily being in accordance with the western governments who initiated them. One barbed comment that he reports is that an anti-war demonstration in London is a rare occasion that a million people have taken to the streets in support of a brutal fascist regime.

One particularly moving chapter describes his search for his ancestry on his mother's side after a unexpected revelation following her tragically early death. He is not mawkish by any means, but approaches the subject with clear eyed and enlightening honesty.

He reads the audiobook, and his slightly plummy style is occasionally difficult to follow but it is well worth the effort and concentration required.

Unreservedly recommended.

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