“Yes, everything he said was brilliant,” Christopher Buckley wrote in The New Yorker, eulogizing his longtime friend Christopher Hitchens. “It was a feast of reason and a flow of soul, and, if the author of God Is Not Great did not himself believe in the concept of soul, he sure had one, and it was a great soul.”
The towering man of letters died this week at the age of 62 and almost immediately Hitchens was remembered with poignant and powerful tributes from his friends and colleagues. “Christopher was the beau ideal of the public intellectual,” Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter wrote, announcing Hitchens’ passing. “You felt as though he was writing to you and to you alone. And as a result many readers felt they knew him. Walking with him down the street in New York or through an airplane terminal was like escorting a movie star through the throngs.”
Writing in the Guardian, novelist Ian McEwan recounted some final days with Hitch. “No man was ever as easy to visit in hospital. He didn't want flowers and grapes, he wanted conversation, and presence. All silences were useful. He liked to find you still there when he woke from his frequent morphine-induced dozes. He wasn't interested in being ill, the way most ill people are. He didn't want to talk about it."
Another friend, Stephen Fry, recalled Hitchens’ supreme wit and intellect: “He was one of very, very few people on earth whom I would have missed just as much had I never had the pleasure and fortune of knowing him. He lit fires in people’s minds.”
And occasionally those flames burned a few friends. Writing for Slate, Julian Barnes described a fatal mistake he made in asking Hitch if he’d read Barnes’ most recent novel. “‘Did I read your novel?’ he repeated, looking at me directly. ‘Give me a clue. Was it—Was it about these two boys who are at school together—something like that?’ He watched me twirl on the hook, then added little bits he half-remembered from my book—unless they were from someone else's book—and played with me until he had enough. He raised my neediness high for all to see—though luckily only he and I were present. And he was careful not to let slip a single word of anything that might resemble praise.”
Finally, Peter Hitchens recalled the quality he admitted most in his older sibling—courage: “My brother possessed this virtue to the very end, and if I often disagreed with the purposes for which he used it, I never doubted the quality or ceased to admire it.”