Christopher Hitchens Biography & Facts
Christopher Eric Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011) was an English-American socio-political critic and public intellectual, who mainly expressed himself as an author, journalist, orator, and columnist. He wrote, co-wrote, edited or co-edited over 30 books, including five of essays on culture, politics, and literature.
Hitchens described himself as an anti-theist, who saw all religions as false, harmful, and authoritarian. He argued for free expression and scientific discovery, and asserted that they were superior to religion as an ethical code of conduct for human civilisation. He also advocated separation of church and state. The dictum "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence" has become known as Hitchens's razor. He was in deep opposition to his brother's views, publicly debating Peter Hitchens several times.A heavy smoker and drinker since his teenage years, Hitchens died from esophageal cancer in December 2011.
Life and career
Early life and education
Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, the elder of two boys; his brother, Peter, became a socially conservative journalist. Their parents, Eric Ernest Hitchens (1909–1987) and Yvonne Jean Hitchens (née Hickman; 1921–1973), met in Scotland when serving in the Royal Navy during World War II. His mother had been a Wren, a member of the Women's Royal Naval Service. She was Jewish, something Hitchens discovered later in life; he came to identify as a secular Jew.Hitchens often referred to Eric simply as 'the commander'. Eric was deployed on HMS Jamaica, which took part in the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst in the Battle of the North Cape on 26 December 1943. He paid tribute to his father's contribution to the war: "Sending a Nazi convoy raider to the bottom is a better day's work than any I have ever done." Eric later worked as a bookkeeper for boatbuilders, speedboat-manufacturers, and at a prep school. Eric's naval career required the family to move from base to base throughout Britain and its dependencies, including to Malta, where Peter Hitchens was born in Sliema in 1951.After attending two independent schools—Mount House School, Tavistock, Devon, from the age of eight, and the Leys School in Cambridgeshire—Hitchens was admitted to Balliol College, Oxford in 1967 where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics and was tutored by Steven Lukes and Anthony Kenny. He graduated in 1970 with a third-class degree. In his adolescence, he was "bowled over" by Richard Llewellyn's How Green Was My Valley, Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, R. H. Tawney's critique on Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, and the works of George Orwell. In 1968, he took part in the TV quiz show University Challenge.In the 1960s, Hitchens joined the political left, drawn by disagreement over the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, racism, and oligarchy, including that of "the unaccountable corporation". He expressed affinity with the politically charged countercultural and protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s. He avoided the recreational drug use of the time, saying "in my cohort we were slightly anti-hedonistic ... it made it very much easier for police provocation to occur, because the planting of drugs was something that happened to almost everyone one knew." Hitchens was inspired to become a journalist after reading a piece by James Cameron.Hitchens was bisexual during his younger days, and joked that as he aged, his appearance "declined to the point where only women would go to bed with [him]." He claimed to have had sexual relations with two male students at Oxford who would later become Tory ministers during the prime ministership of Margaret Thatcher, although he would not reveal their names publicly.Hitchens joined the Labour Party in 1965, but along with the majority of the Labour students' organisation was expelled in 1967, because of what Hitchens called "Prime Minister Harold Wilson's contemptible support for the war in Vietnam." Under the influence of Peter Sedgwick, who translated the writings of Russian revolutionary and Soviet dissident Victor Serge, Hitchens forged an ideological interest in Trotskyism and anti-Stalinist socialism. Shortly after, he joined "a small but growing post-Trotskyist Luxemburgist sect".
Journalistic career in the UK (1971–1981)
Early in his career Hitchens began working as a correspondent for the magazine International Socialism, published by the International Socialists, the forerunners of today's British Socialist Workers Party. This group was broadly Trotskyist, but differed from more orthodox Trotskyist groups in its refusal to defend communist states as "workers' states". Their slogan was "Neither Washington nor Moscow but International Socialism".
In 1971, after spending a year travelling the United States on a scholarship, Hitchens went to work at the Times Higher Education Supplement where he served as a social science correspondent. Hitchens admitted that he hated the position, and was fired after six months in the job. Next he was a researcher for ITV's Weekend World.In 1973 Hitchens went to work for the New Statesman, where his colleagues included the authors Martin Amis, whom he had briefly met at Oxford, Julian Barnes and James Fenton, with whom he had shared a house in Oxford. Amis described him at the time as, "handsome, festive [and] gauntly left-wing". Around that time, the Friday lunches began, which were attended by writers including Clive James, Ian McEwan, Kingsley Amis, Terence Kilmartin, Robert Conquest, Al Alvarez, Peter Porter, Russell Davies and Mark Boxer. At the New Statesman Hitchens acquired a reputation as a left-winger while working as a war correspondent from areas of conflict such as Northern Ireland, Libya, and Iraq.In November 1973, while in Greece, Hitchens reported on the constitutional crisis of the military junta. It became his first leading article for the New Statesman. In December 1977, Hitchens interviewed Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, a conversation he later described as "horrifying". In 1977, unhappy at the New Statesman, Hitchens defected to the Daily Express where he became a foreign correspondent. He returned to the New Statesman in 1979 where he became foreign editor.
American writings (1981–2011)
Hitchens went to the United States in 1981 as part of an editor exchange programme between the New Statesman and The Nation. After joining The Nation, he penned vociferous critiques of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and American foreign policy in South and Central America.Hitchens became a contributing editor of Vanity Fair in 1992, writing ten columns a year. He left The Nation in 2002 after profoundly disagreeing with other contributors over the Iraq War. There is speculation that Hitchens was the inspiration for Tom Wolfe's character Peter Fallow in the 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, but others—including Hit.... Discover the Christopher Hitchens popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Christopher Hitchens books.