Christopher Hitchens, esteemed essayist, author and journalist, died on Thursday of complications from esophageal cancer. He was 62.
The British-born Hitchens, who wrote for publications such as Vanity Fair, the Atlantic Monthly and Slate, rose to prominence for his sharp political opinions, his militant atheism, his scorching critiques of popular figures like Mother Teresa and Henry Kissinger and, above all, his razor wit.
In his final columnin Vanity Fair, published on the magazine's website and dated January 2012, he wrote:
"One thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings. And there’s one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that 'Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
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Hitchens' intellectual rigor led him from radical leftist activism to libertarian views that often aligned with conservatives. He did not abandon his staunch denial of a higher order even in the face of cancer, and some of his most brilliant essays over the past two years dealt with this subject.
When in April 2011, he was forced to cancel a scheduled appearance at the American Atheist Convention, he sent a letter that stated, "Nothing would have kept me from joining you except the loss of my voice (at least my speaking voice), which in turn is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death."
Hitchens’ battle with cancer was well known from his own public statements and writings. Vanity Fair, where he was a columnist, released a statement on Thursday to say that he had died at the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
“There will never be another like Christopher,” Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter said in the statement. “A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar. Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls.”
The author of more than a dozen books, Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, England, on April 13, 1949. He attended Oxford University and in his early life was a Trotskyist socialist, beginning his journalistic career at the radical magazine International Socialism before moving on to the left-leaning New Statesman.
In 1981, he emigrated to the United States, where he began to work for the liberal weekly The Nation.