Hitchens, Christopher 1949–
Hitchens, Christopher 1949–
(Christopher Eric Hitchens)
PERSONAL: Born April 13, 1949, in Portsmouth, England; emigrated to the United States, 1981; son of Eric Ernest (a naval officer) and Yvonne Hitchens; married Eleni Meleagrou (a press officer), June 18, 1981 (divorced, June, 1981); married Carol Blue, 1991; children: three (two with Meleagrou and one with Blue). Education: Balliol College, Oxford, P.P.E. (with honors), 1970. Politics: Socialist.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Writer, journalist, and foreign correspondent. Times Higher Education Supplement, London, England, social science correspondent, 1970–71; New Statesman, London, staff writer, 1973–81, and 1987–; Nation, New York City, columnist, c. 1981–2001; Spectator, London, columnist, 1982–; Times Literary Supplement, London, columnist, 1982–; Vanity Fair columnist. Committee member of Friends of Cyprus, London, 1977–81; subcommittee member of the International Committee of Labour Party.
MEMBER: Lehrman Institute (associate).
AWARDS, HONORS: American Friends of Cyprus annual award, 1985.
(Editor) Karl Marx, The Paris Commune, 1871, Sidgwick & Jackson (London, England), 1971.
(With Peter Kellner) Callaghan: The Road to Number Ten (biography), Cassell (London, England), 1976.
(With David Stephens) Inequalities in Zimbabwe, foreword by Garfield Todd, Minority Rights Group (London, England), 1981.
Cyprus, Quartet (New York, NY), 1984, revised edition with new preface by Hitchens published as Hostage to History: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger, Noonday (New York, NY), 1989.
The Elgin Marbles: Should They Be Returned to Greece?, with essays by Robert Browning and Graham Binns, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1987, published as Imperial Spoils: The Curious Case of the Elgin Marbles, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1988, published as Imperial Spoils: The Case of the Parthenon Marbles, Hill & Wang (London, England), 1989.
(Editor and contributor, with Edward W. Said) Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question, Verso (New York, NY), 1988.
Prepared for the Worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1988.
The Monarchy, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1990.
Blood, Class, and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies, Farrar (New York, NY), 1990, published as Blood, Class, and Nostalgia: The Enduring Anglo-American Relationship, Nation Books (New York, NY), 2004.
For the Sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports, Verso (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Adam Bartos) International Territory: The United Nations, 1945–95, Verso (New York, NY), 1994.
(Author of introduction) Ed Kashi, When Borders Bleed: The Struggles of the Kurds, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1994.
The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, Verso (New York, NY), 1995.
No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, Verso (New York, NY), 1999.
Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere, Verso (New York, NY), 2001.
Letters to a Young Contrarian, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2001.
The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Verso (New York, NY), 2001.
Why Orwell Matters, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Orwell's Victory, Allen Lane/The Penguin Press (London, England), 2002.
(Editor, with Christopher Caldwell) Left Hooks, Right Crosses: A Decade of Political Writing, Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books (New York, NY), 2002.
A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq, Plume (New York, NY), 2003.
Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, Nation Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Thomas Jefferson: Author of America, Atlas Books/HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of BBC-TV documentary, The God That Fled, and of Hell's Angel, a documentary about Mother Teresa, for British television. Contributor to Vanity Fair's Hollywood, edited by Graydon Carter and David Friend, Viking Studio (New York, NY), 2000. Contributor to numerous periodicals, including the Literary Review, New Left Review, New York Review of Books, Observer, Newsday, Washington Post Book World, Granta, London Review of Books, Vogue, New Left Review, Dissent, Times Literary Supplement, and Vanity Fair.
ADAPTATIONS: The Trials of Henry Kissinger, a documentary film based on Hitchens's book of the same title, was directed by Eugene Jarecki and narrated by Brian Cox.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist Christopher Hitchens is a prolific writer, contributing columns and articles to numerous newspapers and magazines, as well as authoring numerous books.
One of Hitchens' earliest books, Callaghan: The Road to Number Ten, written with Peter Kellner, is a biography of former British Prime Minister James Cal-laghan. The book focuses on his political life, although details of Callaghan's personal history are used to further explain his career. Spectator reviewer George Hutchinson, while finding truth in the book, opined: "Dislike or disapproval of one's subject is seldom a good foundation for biography. A modicum of sympa-thy—if no more—is normally conducive to a fuller understanding of character." The reviewer added: "In the result, [Hitchens and Kellner] have produced something in the nature of a polemic—a polemic informed by a rather nagging antipathy towards Mr. Callaghan."
Hitchens' next book, Cyprus, addresses the welfare of the island of Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974. Hitchens alternately blames Great Britain and the United States for allowing the invasion, claiming Great Britain should have convinced Cypriots that British rule would be preferable to Turkish control long before the raid. The United States, according to Hitchens, had known of the invasion plan for a decade and was guilty of "the greatest failure of American foreign policy in post-war Europe." He also elaborates on U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's role in the mishandling of the incident, concluding that simmering conflict between Greeks and Turks was escalated by the efforts of outside governments, including the United States, who exploited Cyprus for their own purposes.
Noting that most accounts of the Cyprus invasion are "highly partisan," New York Times Book Review critic Stephen F. Larrabee wrote: "Christopher Hitchens's book, Cyprus, is no exception," adding:"He has written an informative and highly readable account of the 1974 Cyprus crisis." Jonathan C. Randal also referred to Hitchens' partiality in a Washington Post Book World review, observing that "although he sets out to blame the foreigners, notably his native Britain and successive American administrations … he is too honest a chronicler to whitewash his beloved Greek Cypriots. For indeed the book, although taking account from time to time of the other parties, is something of a tract for the Cypriot case." Further praise was issued by C.M. Woodhouse in the Times Literary Supplement: "Hitchens's book deserves wholehearted praise. His research has been thorough, his style is invigorating, and he has written a compelling account of a tragic episode from first to last."
In Imperial Spoils: The Curious Case of the Elgin Marbles (published in England as The Elgin Marbles: Should They Be Returned to Greece?), Hitchens turned his attention to the controversy surrounding the marble sculptures taken from the Parthenon in Greece by the British Lord Elgin in the early 1800s. These sculptures, which were placed in the British Museum, have inspired writers, among them Lord Byron, Keats, and Thomas Hardy, to mourn the Parthenon's loss and to beg for the return of the relics. Hitchens includes in his book their pleas, as well as essays to the contrary, including one by Robert Browning of the University of London, and another by Graham Binns, who chairs the British Committee for the Restoration of Parthenon Marbles. Browning and Binns argue that the marbles are seen by many more viewers in the British Museum than they would if returned to the Parthenon. The opponents of return also claim the sculptures are safer in London and, thus, should remain there. Although he looks at both sides of the issue in Imperial Spoils, Hitchens concludes that the marbles should be returned to Greece.
Hitchens is also a columnist and has gathered many of his often controversial contributions to Times Literary Supplement, Nation, Harper's, and other periodicals, into two volumes, Prepared for the Worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports and For the Sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports. Prepared for the Worst contains classic Hitchens columns on a wide array of subjects. Writing in the London Times, Richard Rayner deemed the book "a rarity: a collection of reprinted journalism which is not only worth the price of admission but actually seems too short." Publishers Weekly also applauded Prepared for the Worst, declaring: "Hitchens writes clearly, from a well-stocked mind, and is free of the cant that affects many political journalists."
For the Sake of Argument fared equally well with critics. Michael Anderson, writing in New York Times Book Review, found that the book "displays the intelligence, invective and stubborn common sense Mr. Hitchens brings to his commentaries." Times Literary Supplement contributor Matthew D'Ancona applauded Hitchens' "rare talent for ad hominem attack which at its best is invigorating—the essay on Kissinger is a splendidly splenetic example." The reviewer added: "It is interesting to piece together from these journalistic fragments a version of his own world-view and to see that the poles of his intellectual life are, in essence, the idea of America and the idea of the Left."D'Ancona continued: "I disagree with Christopher Hitchens on a great deal. But this is still one of the most stimulating books I have read for a long time." Greg Sandow of Entertainment Weekly, recognized Hitchens as "one of America's best-informed, most literate, and most passionate political commentators."
Perhaps some of Hitchens' boldest efforts are his BBC documentary Hell's Angel, and subsequent book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, in which he pans Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the universally beloved, Nobel Peace Prize-winning servant to India's poor, ill, and orphaned. Describing Mother Teresa as a creation of "hyperbole and credulity," who does good work, "not for its own sake but … so that she may one day be counted as the beatific founder of a new order and discipline within the Church itself," Hitchens interviews disgruntled associates of the woman who claim she has amassed millions of dollars that have never reached the poor. In addition, Hitchens links Mother Teresa to unsavory figures, among them deposed Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and convicted savings and loan swindler Charles Keating. Although largely lauded for his earlier books, Hitchens was chastised for Missionary Position. "Christopher Hitchens," wrote David Gates in Newsweek, "has made a career of being a bad boy. But in attacking Mother Teresa … he's found the muckraker's holy grail: the story to offend everyone."
In the late 1990s, Hitchens became entangled in the political impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton for perjury involving his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Hitchens submitted an affidavit to the U.S. Senate on February 5, 1999, that contained information contradicting that given under oath by White House aide Sidney Blumenthal. Two months after Hitchens delivered his affidavit, his book No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton was published. In a review of the work, John David Dyche stated in Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service: "This short and anything-but-sweet critique by a true-believing liberal provides more pop per page than any of them." According to Dyche, the "leftist iconoclast … here performs a deft literary autopsy on Clinton's ethical corpse. His conclusion: death by triangulation." New York Times Book Review contributor Karen Lehrman urged people to read No One Left to Lie To, remarking on Hitchens "witty bluntness" and also applauding his ability to complete "the Clinton puzzle" and "describe the result." Lehrman also wrote: "Hitchens's brave willingness to show all the sordid scenarios in which our emperor has removed his clothes is beyond refreshing."
Hitchens takes on another American political notable in his book The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Much like Clinton, Hitchens has little good to say about the former Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon. The book, which is primarily culled from two articles that Hitchens wrote for Harper's magazine, presents Hitchens's view of Kissinger as a perpetrator of war crimes. Hitchens equates him with Chilean General Augusto Pinochet and former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, both former government leaders who were brought to trial for wrongdoings, and presents a case that Kissinger should also be tried for his alleged misdeeds during the Vietnam War and for other crimes, such as assassinations or assassination attempts of government leaders in South America. The author builds much of his case around the Vietnam War and conducts a thorough examination of Kissinger's role in the war. "If nothing else, this book rekindles a desire for a full accounting of the war," wrote Harvey Blume in the American Prospect. "Let the trial of Henry Kissinger take place, just as Hitchens demands. It would be exquisitely painful to be drawn back into that world of subterfuge and destruction." Noting that "some of his examples of Kissinger's misdeeds are overwrought," Sojourners contributor Joe Roos went on to note: "Nonetheless, he builds a strong case of indictable international war crimes under which Kissinger could be prosecuted."
In Why Orwell Matters, Hitchens does not seek to demean but rather to praise the famous writer George Orwell, defending Orwell's socialist but anti-totalitarian views in the process. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "devotes some of his best writing to describing Orwell's first-hand experiences with empire in Burma." Charles C. Nash, writing in the Library Journal, called the book "an in-depth investigation of the essential George Orwell." A Kirkus Reviews contributor likewise wrote: "As a guided tour of Orwell's work, this has its value."
Although long considered on the political left, Hitchens began a move toward a more conservative philosophy following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Many of his conservative writings can be found in Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays. Although he covers a wide range of topics, including essays that skewer mass media figures such as Martha Stewart and Mel Gibson, many of the essays focus on the author's view of the growing threat of terrorism and the need to develop an effective, pro-war U.S. foreign policy to stop its spread. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the essays reveal the author to be "as sharp a writer as one has come to expect." Donna Seaman, writing in Bookist, commented that "there is no denying … the independence of his opinions … and the brio of his superbly fashioned prose."
Hitchens is also the author of Thomas Jefferson: Author of America. In the biography, Hitchens looks at Jefferson's weaknesses, such as his ambivalence about slavery, and praises his many achievements which, in the author's view, make him the leading founder of America. The biography is "imaginative without being inventive," wrote Gilbert Taylor in Booklist. In a review in the Weekly Standard, Gordon S. Wood commented: "Not only is it reliable, but it is interesting and insightful."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Hitchens, Christopher, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, Verso (New York, NY), 1995.
American Enterprise, September, 1999, Jesse Walker, review of No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, p. 82.
American Prospect, July 30, 2001, Harvey Blume, review of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, p. 37.
Biography, fall, 2001, Jack F. Matlock, review of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, p. 997.
Booklist, October 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Why Orwell Matters, p. 379; January 1, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, p. 802; April 15, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Thomas Jefferson: Author of America, p. 1427.
Bookseller, February 4, 2005, review of Love, Poverty, and War, p. 35.
Contemporary Review, November, 2001, review of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, p. 313.
Entertainment Weekly, August 13, 1993, Greg Sandow, review of For the Sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports, p. 68.
First Things, April, 2006, Michael Orsi, review of Thomas Jefferson, p. 62.
Front Page, December 10, 2003, Jamie Glazov, "Frontpage Interview: Christopher Hitchens."
Insight on the News, June 28, 1999, Michael Rust, "Clinton's Lies Stopped at Hitchens' Door," interview with author, p. 21.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Why Orwell Matters, p. 1195; September 15, 2002, review of Left Hooks, Right Crosses: Highlights from a Decade of Political Brawling, p. 1366; November 15, 2004, review of Love, Poverty, and War, p. 1079; April 1, 2005, review of Thomas Jefferson, p. 401.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, June 9, 1999, John David Dyche, review of No One Left to Lie To, p. K3286.
Library Journal, May 1, 2001, Jill Ortner, review of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, p. 110; November 1, 2002, Charles C. Nash, review of Why Orwell Matters, p. 89; January 1, 2005, Katherine E. Merrill, review of Love, Poverty, and War, p. 124.
New Statesman, May 10, 1999, Albert Scardino, review of No One Left to Lie To, p. 46.
New York Times Book Review, November 11, 1984, Stephen F. Larrabee, review of Cyprus, pp. 20-21; July 11, 1993, Michael Anderson, review of For the Sake of Argument, p. 20; May 9, 1999, Karen Lehrman, review of No One Left to Lie To, p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, September 9, 1988, review of Prepared for the Worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports; May 17, 1993, p. 57; May 7, 2001, review of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, p. 230; August 19, 2002, review of Why Orwell Matters, p. 76; November 15, 2004, review of Love, Poverty, and War, p. 51.
Queen's Quarterly, winter, 2002, Michael Enright, "Why Orwell Matters," interview with author, p. 533.
Sojourners, November-December, 2001, Joe Roos, review of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, p. 60.
Spectator, October 2, 1976, George Hutchinson, review of Callaghan: The Road to Number Ten, p. 19.
Times (London, England), July 29, 1989, Richard Rayner, review of Prepared for the Worst; August 4, 1990.
Times Literary Supplement, July 13, 1984, C.M. Woodhouse, review of Cypress, p. 777; June 25, 1993, Matthew D'Ancona, review of For the Sake of Argument, p. 26.
Washington Post Book World, August 19, 1984, Jonathan C. Randal, review of Cypress, p. 4.
Weekly Standard, July 4, 2005, Gordon S. Wood, review of Thomas Jefferson, p. 27.
Christopher Hitchens Home Page, http://www.hitchensweb.com/ (May 7, 2006).
NNDB, http://www.nndb.com/ (May 7, 2006), biographical data on author.
Uncommon Knowledge, http://www.uncommonknowledge.org/ (May 7, 2006), "Hitch-Cocked," interview with author.