It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Christopher Hitchens. Even when embattled with cancer, his scholarly integrity shone through as he continued to churn out column after column of thought-provoking polemic. I credit him, among others, with having inspired me to put my thoughts to writing, to discuss, to argue, to have principles and to defend them as passionately as one’s faculties permit.
Even though he had been diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2010 and it was, by his own admission, likely to kill him quickly, I was always rooting for Hitchens and, somewhat irrationally, believed that he would overcome the affliction. I had it in my head that the world simply could not do without figures such as Christopher Hitchens. He had to triumph – “Who, then, would be the voice of reason in a world increasingly characterised by sheer unbridled madness?”, I would find myself asking. I would sometimes comfort myself by watching previous debates and TV appearances, chortling contentedly at this man’s unapologetic world-view, which, if only in its innate rebelliousness, resonated with my own. Then it hit me that the end was indeed nigh for dear Hitchens, when I saw a picture of him recently balded from chemotherapy and increasingly frail, his clothes hanging reluctantly to his gaunt frame.
However his mind remained indefatigable. His magazine columns appeared to retain the acerbically polished finish that his earlier writings displayed and his public appearances were characterised by a typically witty and curious disposition. Apart from the crackling of his distinctive voice, only upon viewing his withered body would one have been aware of how close to expiry he was. It was indeed a sad sight. But the nature of his masterful mind remained rousing.
Characters like Hitchens are inimitable. Do not be deceived, they are rare, a commodity in the tapestry of human existence. He will be missed.