I have to admit that through much of my adult life I have been blind to the genius of Christopher Hitchens. Though I have heard his name bandied about, I never felt much of a reason to reach out and read his writing. Until recently. After hearing many good things about his latest (and final) book, Mortality, I felt I owed it to myself to read what are now Hitchens’ final words.
Mortality shows Hitchens’ as he moved through his final days after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Each essay within this slim book looks at different aspects that a dying man may think of. Being Hitchens’ you can’t pass through without the many debates over religion and the existence of God, but what caught me was the humility that was used when depicting the most harrowing moments of his days. In one section Hitchens laments the losing of his voice. He describes how it would change in timbre and tone and how, to him, this would be his greatest loss.
When we think of cancer we think of a few select things and Hitchens does touch on the obvious such as chemotherapy (the loss of nose hairs is both heart wrenching and funny due to the wit on display) but he zooms in on the little details, too. His voice made him who he was. He regales us with anecdotes about speeches he has made and conversations with friends and we see that it’s then little things that can break you.
The book is overflowing with intelligence, wry humour and emotion. By the end I wanted to read more and, although this was my only experience with Hitchens, I mourned the loss to our world of words.
Published by Atlantic Books. This book was purchased and read on Kindle.