Definitely my review is going to be too long but I admire Christopher Hitchens so much that few sentences simply would not be enough to analyze Hitch-22.
Hitch-22, is a memoir of citizen of both the UK and the USA, a socialist opposed to the war in Vietnam and a supporter of the US war in Iraq, an ardent atheist raised as a Christian, a war correspondent, a literature lover with thirst for booze, friend of both those admired and those disliked… Chris, Hitch or Christopher Hitchens.
Without a doubt, Hitchens was a prolific and colorful writer. In a candid way, he described his childhood and relations with parents. Certainly, the most dramatic and heart- breaking experience in his life was the suicide of his mother, Yvonne, to whom he devoted first chapter. He gave insight into, sometimes very cruel, life in boarding school. He also told the story of his first affection to another man. In a beautiful way, Hitchens described how his identity, or rather identities, changed over the years. He dedicated some chapters to the people who had special place in his life, such as Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie or Edward Said. Furthermore, he did not disappoint with articulate description of turning point events of the last few decades. Hitchens would not be himself if he did not include his unchangeable views on religion. The last but not the least, at the end of the book he shared with readers discovering of his Jewish identity.
Several elements make this memoir truly interesting and amusing piece. First, it is not a simple memoir, it is a book about modern history describing revolutions and wars. With Hitchens, you go to Cuba, Prague, Poland, 11/9 New York, Iraq under dictatorship of Saddam Hussain and many other places. That is to say, you get a lesson from a person who was a witness of events that changed the history. Next, Hitchens portrayed those who he admired and those who he despised. In fact, his life was so fascinating and inspiring because of people he encountered- from dictators to the best authors of our time. Finally, what stole my heart was his deep admiration for the literature. You need to be really well- read to try to truly understand Hitchens.
I really appreciate Hitchens for the part devoted to Salman Rushdie. Hitchens criticized journalists, scholars and the Left, who instead of attacking Ayatollah attacked Rushdie. As he put it “It seemed that the assassins were winning without a fight, and those who should be defending the citadel were weeping and scattering before they had even heard a shot or felt a wound”. What Hitchens highlighted was the fact that the same multiculturalism that brought Rushdie and other distinguish figures to the West, bases on moral relativism and moral blackmail, which turned into uniculturalism. He stated it clearly that the modern relativism promoted by particular groups, excuses terrorism, violence, and religious fanatism.
A few people would wish to get into argument with Hitchens and not feel foolish at the end of it. I think this memoir shows the biggest debate of Hitchens, a debate with himself. Some critics condemn him for his conversion from the Left to the Right. In my opinion, this book demonstrates fascinating process of transformation of views and believes, which is inseparable part of people’ lives. What I truly admire is a very open way that Hitchens talked about good and bad choices in his life. He always was a man of multiple identities. In fact, through whole his life he was trying to learn who he really was. Interestingly enough, after so many years he found out about his Jewish roots, which led him to Poland.
While he admitted his political change of heart, his atheism never shifted. He had strongly and clearly manifested his unchangeable attitudes to religion even in the last interviews before he passed away. One of the reason for his detest of the religion was a tendency of religious people to believe that the universe is designed with “you” in mind, or that there is a divine plan into which one fits whether one knows it or not.
Nevertheless, Hitchens disappoints with his endless and effortless defense of 2003 Iraq war. Actually, it is quite surprising that such a brilliant man, with very sober and logical approach to any aspect of life and politics was so stubborn in justifying the war.
And that memorable visit in brothel house in New York with Martin Amis… What strike me was his attitude to the women working there. A man who fought against injustice around the world, who promoted empowerment of women, described women in brothel house as “cynical little witches”. Frankly speaking, Hitchens disappointed me so much…
Those who expect hot details of his intimate life will be deeply dissatisfied. Hitchens did not want readers to know anything about the relationship with his wife. He never said anything about falling in love with her, in the first place.
Let me recall messages that Hitchens included in his memoir: Margaret Thatcher was a kind of sexy, while Marxism was good Communism not necessarily, life in boarding school can be brutal, Mother Teresa was not as good person as people believe she was, do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach, we learn whole life who we really are, true friends are always there for you, sometimes you need to be a fox.
The best summary of Hitch-22 would be Christopher Hitchens’s motto: “Get on with your own work, and behave as if you were immortal”.
I should say “rest in peace, Hitchens” but I think he would not like it.