Hitchens on cancer and God

Writer gives first television interview since being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.

Christopher Hitchens, whom I interviewed earlier this year for the NS, has given his first TV interview since he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in June. It's encouraging to see that, despite his grave condition, he's lost none of his lucidity and wit.

In the interview, with CNN's Anderson Cooper, he responds to those who are hoping (and praying) for a "deathbed conversion":

If that comes it'll be when I'm very ill, when I'm half-demented either by drugs or by pain and I won't have control over what I say. I mention this in case you hear a rumour later on . . . I can't say that the entity that by then wouldn't be me, wouldn't do such a pathetic thing. But I can tell you: not while I'm lucid, no.

Elsewhere, he acknowledges that he had been, as puts it, "taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction".

"If you smoke, which I did for many years, very heavily . . . and if you use alcohol, you make yourself a candidate for it," he says.

He adds: "If you can hold it down on the smokes and the cocktails you may be well advised to do so."

I'd also recommend reading Hitchens's remarkable essay for this month's Vanity Fair, "Topic of cancer". It's an extraordinarily controlled and moving piece of writing. Here's one of a series of memorable lines:

To the dumb question "Why me?" the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for International Trade.

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.