Stop indulging with Christopher Hitchens’s illness

Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

The news that Christopher Hitchens, the world's most controversial writer and a fanatical atheist, has cancer, is sadly resulting in a ghastly display of indulgence among those debating whether to pray or not to pray for him.

Surely the answer to that clever-clever (or "clever-stupid", as the man himself would say) debate is to pray if you believe, and to do so quietly and without banging on about it, and, er, not to pray if you don't believe. Whatever happened to the notion of shutting up, and "Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing"?

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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"The Anatolian Fertility Goddess": a poem by Fiona Pitt-Kethley

Across the Golden Horn in Karakoy. . . 

Across the Golden Horn in Karakoy,
a maze of ancient, crooked, cobbled streets
contains the brothels of old Istanbul.
A vendor at the bottom of the hill
sells macho-hot green chilli sandwiches.
A cudgel-wielding policeman guards the gate.
 
One year, dressed as a man, I went inside
(women and drunks are not allowed in there).
I mingled with the mass of customers,
in shirt, grey trousers, heavy walking boots.
A thick tweed jacket flattened out my breasts.
A khaki forage cap concealed my hair.
 
The night was young, the queues at doors were short.
Far down the street a crowd of men stood round
and watched a woman dancing in a house.
Her sixty, sixty, sixty figure poured inside
a flesh-tone, skin-tight, Lycra leotard,
quivered like milk-jelly on a shaken plate.
 
I’ve seen her type before in small museums –
primeval blobs of roughly sculpted stone –
the earliest form of goddess known to man.


Fiona Pitt-Kethley is a British poet, novelist and journalist living in Spain. Her Selected Poems was published in 2008 by Salt.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad