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Christopher Hitchens: The Last Interview

Review of Christopher Hitchens: The Last Interview…

In a month which sees the anniversary of the death of Christopher Hitchens in 2011 it is more than pleasing to see a publication featuring the man and his words. This, the latest in Melville House Publishing’s The Last Interview series features eight interviews with Hitchens from 1987 until his final interview with his friend Professor Richard Dawkins in December 2011.

There can be few journalists more divisive than Hitchens, his views on religion, politics and the second Gulf War in particular won him fans and enemies alike. His later years were dominated by his debates with leaders of faith which often  overshadowed his brilliance as a journalist, essayist and literary critic.

Happily, this collection offers fans and newcomers to Hitchens a fair mix of the subjects he spoke so eloquently about. His famous rebuttal of Mother Teresa’s ascendency to global sainthood raised many eyebrows and confirmed Hitchens’ status as agitator extraordinaire. Here, Matt Cherry of the Free Enquiry magazine interviews Hitchens in 1996 for The Missionary Position, his book on Mother Teresa and Hitchens vents his spleen on the millions of dollars amassed by her foundation yet the conditions of the care facilities were amongst the most basic of them all.

Hitchens took on America’s bible belt head on, a near impenetrable force which he attacked in his bestselling book God is not Great. Hitchens was interviewed by Marilyn Sewell, a former Senior Minister for the First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon who engages Hitchens in a civilised debate and sees him raise his most famous singular argument of faith versus humanism: “Show me what there is, ethically, any religion that can’t be duplicated by humanism. in other words, can you name me a single moral action performed or moral statement uttered by a person of faith that couldn’t be just as well pronounced or undertaken by  a civilian?”

So this is a book worth adding to the collection. Yes, there are countless videos of the man on YouTube but there is something about reading them which is hard to explain. The book could easily have been far thicker but it’s more than sufficient to wet the appetite of the newcomer or to give some cheer to his loyal fans. It is a series I must confess to not having known about before but the idea intrigues me as do their other subjects from Hemingway to Bowie, Philip K. Dick to Salinger and Martin Luther King to Hunter S. Thompson.

Whatever one’s personal view of Hitchens there can be no doubting his championing of free thinking and the right of expression regardless of colour, creed or sex. He was a proud contrarian with an incredible intellect and what strikes me about this collection of interviews is, if it were needed, that a truly unique voice in the field of politics and journalism has been lost resulting in yet another hammer blow to the art and practice of intelligent, level-headed debate. The final conversation with Dawkins proves that point.

Christopher Hitchens: The Last Interview

Melville House Publishing 2017

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