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Mortality
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on 7 July 2017
This is a collection of essays and random thoughts penned by the acclaimed writer Christopher Hichens during the time between him being diagnosed with incurable esophageal cancer and when he became too ill to write anymore. Understandably it is not an easy book to read, considering the trademark brutal honesty of the author and it certainly should not be recommended as a bed time read to anyone who is suffering from cancer. However it does make one filled with awe at the lucidity with which he wrote knowing what he must have been going through.

Some find it strange that at the end Hitchens was like the rest of us, hoping to be spared, as if this in some way makes him loose his credibility. Why? I fail to understand. Hitchens never claimed he was not afraid of death and for him to write after he realized that he was dying that he was not scared would have been nothing but an act of madness. Hitchens was an atheist and atheists do not have any hope for an afterlife, for them this life is all we have and so it is preposterous to expect an atheist not being afraid of death. And there is nothing wrong with it, what is absurd and ridiculous is seeing the believers wanting to keep on living when having similar illnesses, them praying to be cured and asking others to pray for them, why do they want to live one may ask? Why go through the pain of treatment and cling to life even when it is hard to breath? Shouldn’t they welcome the chance to leave for the land of milk and honey promised to them?

Yes, Hitchens is not afraid to show his fear and anger at dying and about the fact that there is nothing he can do about it, although to be honest he seems to be more afraid of losing his voice and ability to write than death itself.

The book was also something personal to me. My late father who like Hitchens was in his 60 when he passed away due to lymphoma was no writer or intellectual but I could see many personality traits they both shared. The bewilderment, sense of being helpless, acceptance and yet hope for a miracle cure and through it all a stoic sense of humor is clearly seen in the writings of Hitchens and my personal observance of my father while he struggled with cancer (as Hitchens suggests I would not use fought with cancer since no one fights with cancer). My father never claimed to be an atheist yet I never saw him praying to God on his knees asking to be cured, I never saw him asking others to pray for him, not even those who were going on pilgrimage to Mecca. And as Hitchens widow Carol Blue writes in the epilogue to the book the end when it came was unexpected just like my father for he was fine days before he died.

In the end I guess we need to see things in perspective for there is a good chance that unless we drop dead suddenly we will face the possibility of what Hitchens calls the period of dying. Rich or poor, famous or unknown hardly makes a difference at such a time for all share the wish to live a little longer and fear the thought of not seeing those they love anymore. Even among believers I doubt anyone except a fanatic dies anticipating the eternal life that awaits them. The best we can hope for is to be able to die with dignity. To quote Faiz:

Jis dhaj se koi maqtal mein gaya, woh shan salamat rahti hai,,,,
Yeh jan to aani jani hai, is jan ki koi baat nahi.

The grace with one faces death is what lives after us
Life itself is fleeting and cannot be relied upon
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on 26 January 2018
Mostly, I felt sad reading this.

It's tough to rate it as a book, as it's really a collection of Hitch's writings and jottings that he did before he died, and which didn't make it into anything else. Much of it is, of course, musings on the nature of mortality, and the indiscriminate nature of the beast that took this genius from us too early.

There are bits where you can see where he may have polished his words later, but as he explains at one point, he rarely does much polishing - the words flow, he writes them down, then moves onto the next thing. So the quality is significantly higher than much "journalism" we see today.

R.I.P. Hitch. You are missed. I would have loved to see your responses to the world in 2018!
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on 4 March 2016
I really can't say just how much I enjoyed this book. I almost feel guilty saying that I've enjoyed the writings of someone who's faced with his impending death but it was just amazing - honest, amusing, frank, refreshing. I've read quite a bit of Hitchens' work. He's embarrassingly widely read and well researched and therefore any of his writings about his atheism is always wise, thought provoking, informative and balanced. He says as he finds which might offend some but really can make you see things in a completely contrary way to things that you'd always accepted as 'right'. His previous writings have almost made me think, 'Oh yes, so black isn't really black, it's white after all'. This final writing of Mr Hitchens is equally amazing. He turns turns of phrase on their head - 'Fighting Cancer' There's only going to be one winner. Also, the way he refers to 'Tumourland' and the whole new way of speaking and behaving in this episode of his life - you can almost see him saying it with a dry smile. 'What does not kill us makes us stronger'. Really? His musings about the nonsense of that phrase. The chemo very nearly kills him and most definitely doesn't make him strong. Anyway, you really must read this book. His wife writes the final chapter. There are a few notes that she has found hidden in various books that were obviously meant to guide further writings. Heart wrenching but, similarly, must be strangely reassuring to know that your partner is going to continue speaking to you. The most refreshing thing? The fact that someone who is an atheist becomes stronger in his belief that there is no afterlife even as he moves towards the end of his life. I just don't know how strongly to recommend that you read this book. It really is, probably, the most enjoyable book I've ever read.
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on 30 September 2015
This was difficult to read. I don't mean it was a bad book. Quite the contrary actually, it was a brilliant book.
But... I dunno, it's harrowing. It was written because, obviously, Christopher was diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer and knew from the offset he was going to die. And that feeling, even when not written down, actually penetrates the writing.
I would even go as far as to say he descends into madness towards the end, as his own visitation from the reaper looms ever closer. The final few chapters see Christopher's mind wander off on many tangents of philosophy. You can't help but wonder what one's own mind might imagine given a similar situation.

Heartbreaking, and also utterly compelling. I commend to you both the man and the book.
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on 15 January 2017
I was encouraged by my partner to read this book for years. He has always been keen to expand my mind and point me in the direction of things which could help me make sense of everything. My life just seemed so full I could never find the time to do or appreciate the simple things. When I finally began reading, I found myself holding back guilty chuckles leading to an appreciation of the sensitivity and harsh reality of mortality I was inadvertently somehow privy to. This experience has changed my views on life and has made me more aware of my role in this journey of life as we know it. I could not put this book down. A beautiful read. An impossible task of reading this with dry eyes to the end. I dare anyone to do otherwise.
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on 14 September 2017
Perhaps I should have read other works before reading this. There is nothing moving about this work even though he is dying. He is pragmatic but pompous, and relies much on 'intellectual' quotes. Nevertheless he is undoubtedly a raconteur.
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on 13 February 2014
Christopher Hitchens was the most honest, intelligent, brave and well spoken man that ever walked on the face of this earth. He also had thee most razor sharp wit that nobody could match. He was a complete one off in the best way possible. He outed so many true devils of this world but was often condemned for doing so. This never stopped him though, right up to his very sad death from which he suffered so terribly. He was finally getting the following he so deserved when he was taken from us. His books grip you from start to finish and leave you with much food for thought. I'm just one of many who loved him but read for yourself.
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on 14 January 2013
Christopher Hitchens' farewell to the world is consistent with his previous writing: unafraid, unsentimental, humorous, intelligent, direct. What is most surprising is his continuing ability to engage the reader as though he were in conversation with them so that the reader can imagine what it would be like to be in Hitchens' situation and thimnks about it seriously. Hitchens does not dwell on the indignities of terminal illness but the reader is left in no doubt of its nature. I don't have the impression that Hitchens, who died from cancer at 61 after a lifetime of over-indulgence, was a 'nice' person. I think he could be arrogant, tactless, gratuitously huttful towards other people and their thoughts or beliefs. But his wife's Afterword to the book shows another side of his character. He must have been exciting to live with.
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on 23 January 2016
Death is the downside of atheism, and of much else. We have no consolation, no solace, just the stark fact. And then nothing.
So this is a serious book, about the most serious subject of all.
But, of course, it is also uplifting. The style, the wit, the erudition and the willingness to go out unrepentant and unapologetic make it, yes, a joy to read.
The afterword, by his widow, confirms what we already knew: it was not an act, he really was that way.
A loss. We have been poorer since.
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on 5 April 2016
I, like many people in their early 30s, feel like I discovered Hitch too late in life; his wit, critical writings and debating skills are peerless. It was his excellent work on atheism that made me feel relief to know that some of our sharpest minds are still fighting this old war of enlightenment V superstitious nonscense. It was with great regret that I read this book as it was based on the last of his writings as he succumbed to his illness and covers pertinent personal issues such as losing the ability to write and chemotherapy.
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