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Mortality [Hardcover]

Christopher Hitchens
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2012
The world's greatest contrarian confronts his own death in this brave and unforgettable book.

During the US book tour for his memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens collapsed in his New York hotel room to excoriating pain in his chest and thorax. As he would later write in the first of a series of deeply moving Vanity Fair pieces, he was being deported 'from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.' Over the next year he underwent the brutal gamut of modern cancer treatment, enduring catastrophic levels of suffering and eventually losing the ability to speak.

Mortality is the most meditative collection of writing Hitchens has ever produced; at once an unsparingly honest account of the ravages of his disease, an examination of cancer etiquette, and the coda to a lifetime of fierce debate and peerless prose. In this eloquent confrontation with mortality, Hitchens returns a human face to a disease that has become a contemporary cipher of suffering.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 106 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; First Edition edition (1 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848879210
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848879218
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was the author of Letters to a Young Contrarian, and the bestseller No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family. A regular contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate, Hitchens also wrote for The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and The Independent, and appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, The Chris Matthew's Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and C-Span's Washington Journal. He was named one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect.

Product Description


His unworldly fluency never deserted him, his commitment was passionate, and he never deserted his trade. He was the consummate writer, the brilliant friend. In Walter Pater's famous phrase, he burned 'with this hard gem-like flame.' Right to the end. --Ian McEwan

[Hitchens's] voice remains civilised, searching and ready to vanquish all his enemies. --Colm Tóbín

A trenchant, learned, iconoclastic and splendidly witty commentator on public life and, as here, on his own private triumphs and travails... unremittingly elegant, a master of graceful prose. --John Banville

Characteristic of his elegant wit: philosophical, literary, ironic, sardonic, reflective and resentful. --The Times

Hitchens's account of his climb to extinction is Larkinesque, and not only because his sentences stay in the mind as firmly as good poetry. --Literary Review

Hitchens's traditional strengths - his mastery of irony, his range of reference, his contempt for euphemism - are all in evidence here but there is a timeless, aphoristic quality to these essays that distinguishes them from his writings on politics and literature. --New Statesman

Apart from the obvious sense of denoument, what makes [Hitchens's] last seven essays so potent... is their struggle towards the shattering of illusion... The true struggle of his last writings is to remain himself, deep in the country of the ill, for as long as he can.--Observer

Witty, thoughtful and refreshingly irritable. --Evening Standard

Shocking, intimate and astute, Mortality is a memoir like no other. --Irish Independent

About the Author

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a columnist for Slate. He was the author of numerous books, including works on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Orwell, Mother Teresa, Henry Kissinger and Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as his international bestseller and National Book Award nominee, god Is Not Great. His memoir, Hitch-22, was nominated for the Orwell Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
192 of 195 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It comes as no surprise that one of the most remarkable troublemakers and polemicists this country has ever produced didn't leave without having a few important things to say. The late great Christopher Hitchens used the pages of Vanity Fair during his full frontal battle against a tumor in his esophagus to apply the maxim of Dylan Thomas to "rage, rage against the dying of the light". But you also sense throughout the pages of "Mortality", a book collecting those very special essays, that Hitchens instinctively felt that this was one argument he wasn't going to win. As such his tangle with death is a level headed but poignant dalliance with the slow degradation of a body which graphically charts the "wager" with chemotherapy taking "your taste buds, your ability to concentrate, your ability to digest and the hair on your head". He is painfully honest and reflective throughout about his predicament not least the "gnawing sense of waste" and the reality of becoming an early "finalist in the race of life". Yet it wouldn't be Hitchens if the opportunity for settling some old scores was not taken and in particular his restatement of his vociferous views on atheism despite the fact that September 20th 2010 was designated by one religious website in the States as "Everyone pray for Hitchens day".

Others were less charitable for in some quarters the onset of Hitchens illness produced a vicious form of schadenfreude not least amongst his many enemies in the US Christian right where his strong opinions on religion had provoked and outraged those not prepared to countenance any debate. He quotes an opinion from an American religious blog that viewed his throat cancer as "Gods revenge for him using his voice to blaspheme him".
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Contrarian 4 Sep 2012
By s k
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Mortality is a slim and sober volume, and one that gets harder to read as it nears its (and the author's) conclusion. Christopher Hitchens gladly took on the role of public intellectual, and it is one in which he effortlessly excelled. His erudition was remarkable, his essays managing the tricky combination of being nuanced and pugnacious, eloquent and funny. And it was these qualities he brought to his valiant and very public crusade against esophageal cancer, the final and unwinnable conflict waged in the theatre of his body.

The present collection of essays starts with a touching Foreword by Graydon Carter (Hitchens's editor at Vanity Fair), a Foreword in which he describes the convivial and controversial character Hitchens embodied. But despite political differences of opinion, the Iraq war being foremost among them, Carter conveys how hard it was (is) to dislike Hitchens, a sentiment extending to his large readership. For that was the thing about Hitchens: it didn't matter how much you disagreed with what he was saying, and there was quite a lot, he was still one of the most insightful and ruthless essayists around, a true contrarian.

Primarily, the essays begin with Hitchens being diagnosed in June 2010. The openness with which he relates the news is brave, the mixture of shock and motivation palpable. But he controls the pointless rage and favours curiosity instead. This was an aggressive cancer, and one whose encroaching malignity robbed him of his two main attributes: his voice and the energy to write. The measured reflections on these two aspects of his illness are the most poignant, as he keeps responding to the cancer in new ways, undertaking a dialectical approach to the disease that will kill him.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last words ... 31 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I agree with Red on Black's review in its entirety and though the final thoughts and musings of CH have already been provided in Vanity Fair and in interviews he gave during his last months, Mortality is a dignified, reflective and enriching literary coda to the life of one of the most stimulating writers/columnists/polemicists of the last thirty years and more.

To those drawn to this slender volume, perhaps mainly, as a result of the recent articles/obituaries about CH - and who have not read much of his voluminous output, buy this book; it will whet your appetite for more of his stimulating and enriching works.

Reading Mortality I was again struck by an abiding sense of loss, a sense of bereavement that has endured since his passing in December, last year. Such was his uniqueness and his unfailing courage that, together with his intellect and literary talents, it is doubtful that any other writer or columnist will fill the void.

One last point, for the sake of accuracy, Amazon needs to amend the product details of Mortality. This slim volume is 106 - and not the claimed 240 - pages in length.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When Christopher Hitchens wrote about the humbling experience of being accidently referred to as the `late' Hitchens in his memoir Hitch-22 in 2010, he could have had no idea that a `malignant alien' was in fact already burrowing deep into his oesophagus. Perhaps this earlier realisation that he, too, was an aging mortal helped soften the blow somewhat when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in June 2010. Adopting the stoic tradition previously undertaken by journalist's Richard Brookhiser and John Diamond, Hitchens decided to document, as part of an agreement with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter that he would write about anything except sports, his experience of the disease - in no uncertain detail.
At the time, many considered it an interesting experiment; imagine, if you will, your favourite intellectual faced with the subjective circumstance of their fast-impending demise and their considered reaction to this on-going malady. The results here are at least interesting not only for the humour and fluency present in the writing, even when describing excruciating pain in real time, but for displaying his contempt for euphemism and holy cows (of all kinds), an affirmation of his character and with a good deal of (cowboy, as it turned out to be) hat-tipping to the stoics gone before him (including Sir Kingsley Amis, and his own father). Whilst he also maintained a steady output of essays on politics and culture until at least a few weeks before his death in December last year, the filings from `Tumortown' have now been gathered in a short book, under the bold collective title of Mortality.

After reading the first few pages of the book, it becomes clear one was right to not simply buy it through sympathy, disregarding the grave, sheepish looking Hitchens on the front cover.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete
I'm sure this was planned to be a larger composition, a collection of life and cancer related essays, subject to Christopher Hitchens surviving cancer. Read more
Published 11 days ago by PishPash
5.0 out of 5 stars Like everything he wrote thoughtful and perceptive
He was a great controversialwrite who makes you think. Some wont like it but most would. give it a try
Published 23 days ago by H. D. Harvey-kelly
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
Intelligent and thought provoking. Very short and so manageable in small chunks - perfect for a commute. Sad loss of a great man.
Published 1 month ago by marija maher
5.0 out of 5 stars Sadly too short
I enjoyed the ramblings of hitch on many fronts, this book was no less enjoyable for the subject matter, but because of it, far, far too short.
Published 1 month ago by Paul Lancashire
4.0 out of 5 stars Mortality - Christopher Hitchens
A very difficult subject written under terrible circumstances. Manages to retain his sense of humour throughout though even when faced with the inevitable. Unique insight.
Published 1 month ago by allan mackeddie
5.0 out of 5 stars Wrote by a genius
Christopher Hitchens was the most honest, intelligent, brave and well spoken man that ever walked on the face of this earth. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Deborah Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT
Short and not sweet as it is about death. Still it is interesting as it was one of the last books he wrote. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Moonshine.
4.0 out of 5 stars Depressing
I give it 4 because his use of language is so commanding as always but it's terribly dreary and depressing - everything you expect from a man dying with throat cancer and it... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Peter
5.0 out of 5 stars as ever, Hitch is relentlessly honest and perceptive
Hitch examines his own terminal illness with the critical awareness that never failed him. An inspiration in honesty. Such a loss to the world of reason.
Published 3 months ago by J. M. Simmons
5.0 out of 5 stars The Late Great
As always; Perfection on paper. You haven't lived until you've read how this great man handled his own impending death.
Published 3 months ago by Linda O McGough
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