RIP: Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

Christopher Hitchens, an infamous journalist, writer, thinker, and atheist, passed away late Thursday following a long battle with esophageal cancer. He was 62.

Hitchens served as contributing editor at Vanity Fair for nearly two decades. The magazine broke the news on Twitter. “There will never be another like Christopher Hitchens,” said the magazine in a statement. “A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar.”

His final piece for Vanity Fair, “Trial of the Will,” — a rumination on pain and death — was published last week.

Before I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year and a half ago, I rather jauntily told the readers of my memoirs that when faced with extinction I wanted to be fully conscious and awake, in order to “do” death in the active and not the passive sense. And I do, still, try to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span. However, 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.”

As fitting tribute as any.

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