Four months on from Christopher Hitchens’s untimely death, Vanity Fair is hosting a memorial service in his honour in New York. The line-up of speakers is predictably dazzling: Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Stephen Fry, Christopher Buckley, Francis Collins, the former director of the Human Genome Project, and physicist Lawrence Krauss.
A few weeks before Hitchens’s death, Richard Dawkins, the New Statesman’s Christmas guest-editor, travelled to Texas to interview him for the magazine. It was to be his final interview.
We will shortly be publishing their conversation online in full but for now here are some exclusive extracts from that interview as well as the best Hitchens-related content from the NS archive.
Exclusive extracts from the writer’s final interview.
New Statesman editor Jason Cowley reflects on Hitchens’s place in Anglo-American letters.
Hitchens reports from Madrid in 1976, following the death of Franco.
George Eaton’s interview with Hitchens from May 2010 in which he remarked of David Cameron: “He seems content-free to me. Never had a job, except in PR, and it shows. People ask, ‘What do you think of him?’ and my answer is: ‘He doesn’t make me think.”
In 2009, Hitchens attacked Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation, writing that Blair’s “new banality” rises “almost to Queen’s Christmas broadcast level”.
The NS’s lead book reviewer writes of Hitchens’s final collection of essays: “Coming from one of the greatest living writers of English prose, Arguably is the testament of a prodigiously gifted mind. To say that, during the past three decades, the world would have been poorer, duller and altogether a smaller place without Hitchens and his writings would be to utter a cliché of the kind he despises. It would also be true.”
George Eaton talks to Hitchens’s former New Statesman colleagues about his time at the magazine.
In 1976, Hitchens visited Iraq and wrote that Saddam Hussain had “sprung from being an underground revolutionary gunman to perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser.”
In a 2007 diary, Hitchens wrote of his fellow athiests Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins: “it’s an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as these men. If there were seven of us, the clever press would call us dwarves. As we are a quartet, we are doomed to be called the Gang of Four or the Four Musketeers. My own nomination – the Four Horsemen of the Counter-Apocalypse – is a bit cumbersome and I’d welcome suggestions.”
In November 2011, just a few weeks before his death, Hitchens’s comrades and friends, including Martin Amis, James Fenton, Salman Rushdie and Sean Penn, paid tribute to him at the Royal Festival Hall in London. George Eaton reviewed the evening for the NS.