Brain Pickings

Try to Write as if Posthumously: Christopher Hitchens on Art and Death

Hitch on death, public opinion, and freedom from inhibition.

Try to Write as if Posthumously: Christopher Hitchens on Art and Death

On June 4, 2010, three days before he became gravely ill, Christopher Hitchens (April 23, 1949–December 15, 2011) took the stage at The New York Public Library’s excellent LIVE series (one of the many reasons I support NYPL monthly) to discuss his newly published memoir, Hitch 22 (public library).

In this excerpt from his conversation with NYPL’s Paul Holdengräber, hair-raising in retrospect, Hitchens discussed the duality of his relationship with death, both a fiend of fear and a frontier of freedom.

Holdengräber: In the first 4-5 pages of your memoir, one thing that strikes me is a real fear of death, and in some way I think that the memoir is written to hold it at bay.

Hitchens: Of course. I’ve always known that I’m born into a losing struggle… don’t know anyone who’s come out of that a winner. One should try to write as if posthumously. Because then you’re free of all the inhibition that can cluster around even the most independent-minded writer. You don’t really care about public opinion now, you don’t mind about sales, you don’t care what the critics say. You don’t even care what your friends, your peers, your beloved think. You’re free. Death is a very liberating thought.

Watch the full program here and don’t miss Hitchens’ final collection of essays, Arguably.

Published December 22, 2011




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