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Who Was Christopher Hitchens? The Life Of The Controversial Vanity Fair Columnist

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Oct. 30 2018, Updated 2:48 p.m. ET

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By Debbie Emery - Reporter

Love him or hate him, it was impossible not to respect author and journalist Christopher Hitchens, who died Thursday at the age of 62.

As fans of his work mourned his death from pneumonia stemming from oesophageal cancer, reveals the man behind the famous byline who spoke out against Mother Theresa, Hilary and Bill Clinton, and even God.

Born in Portsmouth, England in 1949 to parents who were both in the Royal Navy, young Christopher was educated at a boarding school in Cambridge where he later confessed to having experimented with relationships with other male students, and even fell in love with a boy named Guy, who he exchanged poems and "white-hot snatched kisses" with.

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He continued his sexual experiments at Oxford University where he had affairs with two men who went on to become prominent politicians in Margaret Thatcher's government.

Hitchens embraced the political activism of the sixties after becoming fuelled by anger over the Vietnam war, racism and oligarchy, and was arrested at many rallies and protests that he passionately took part in.

The left-wing enthusiast began writing for the New Statesmen, where he became friends with now-esteemed authors Martin Amis and Ian McEwan.

Soon after tragedy struck his family, when his mother overdosed on sleeping pills in a hotel room in Greece as part of a tragic suicide pact with her clergy-man lover.

After moving to America in 1981 and writing for liberal weekly, The Nation, Hitchens later got the job that he would be best known for as Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair magazine in 1991.

Throughout his career he became famous for his essay-style columns from around the world, including Cyprus, Chad, Uganda, and Sudan, and he was celebrated for his work with a National Magazine Award in 2007.

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“There will never be another like Christopher,” Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter said in a statement, reported “A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar."

Hitchens was never afraid to take on even the most powerful political opponents including President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush, but his opinion began a gradual swing to the right that was solidified in 2001 with the 9/11 attacks, after which he became a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq and an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism.

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During a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania in 2006 with Amis, he announced, "I am no longer a socialist, but I still am a Marxist."

Author of God Is Not Great, Hitchens contended that religion is "the main source of hatred in the world," and has criticized all religions claiming, "The real axis of evil is Christianity, Judaism, and Islam."

He went on to become an advocate of the New Atheism and the National Secular Society, and went on to debate religion with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is a Roman Catholic convert.

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Hitchens was rambunctious when it came to his social life as he was in his written work, and he confessed in his memoir,  Hitch-22, that his daily alcohol intake was big enough "to kill or stun the average mule"

A NPR profile of him in 2006 revealed: "Hitchens is known for his love of cigarettes and alcohol — and his prodigious literary output."

Following his cancer diagnosis in 2010, Hitchens faced his cancer head-on, like he did everything else in his life, and for his final column in the current Vanity Fair he wrote candidly, "I lay at the point of death."

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He went on to reveal, "One thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings.

"And there’s one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that 'Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.'"

Hitchens is survived by his second wife, Carol Blue, and their daughter, Antonia, and his children from a previous marriage, Alexander and Sophia. He also leaves behind a brother, Peter, a conservative columnist for the British paper Daily Mail.



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