Will Hitchens be remembered as a writer or an orator?

In many ways the comparisons made between him and Orwell, to whom he returns again and again, as evangelical Christians return to Jesus (“What would George do?”), are false. Unlike Orwell, he has no one definitive book, no Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Homage to Catalonia. He is not a philosopher and has made no original contribution to intellectual thought. As an atheist, his antireligious tract, God Is Not Great, is elegant but derivative. His polemical denunciations and pamphlets on powerful individuals, such as Mother Teresa, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Henry Kissinger, feel already dated, stranded in place and time, good journalism but not literature.


Ultimately, I suspect, he will be remembered more for his prodigious output and for his swaggering, rhetorical style—as well as for his lifestyle: the louche cosmopolitan and gadfly, the itinerant and sardonic man of letters and indefatigable raconteur.

The culture no longer throws up people like the Hitch. Today, he is very much a man apart. He has no equal in contemporary Anglo-American letters; there are followers and disciples but no heir apparent.

A. J. Liebling used to say that: “I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.” He could have been describing Christopher Hitchens, who may have been silenced but whose essays and books will continue to be read and who, through the Internet, watched and listened to as he went about his business, provoking, challenging, amusing and stridently engaging with ways of the world, always taking a position, never giving ground. The Hitch, the only one.