He quotes T. S. Eliot:
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
and a Leonard Cohen prayer:
If it be your will,
That I speak no more:
And my voice be still,
As it was before …
Hitchens has lost his voice, his ability to speak. It is the cancer:
Daily existence becomes a babyish thing, measured out not in Prufrock’s coffee spoons but in tiny doses of nourishment, accompanied by heartening noises from onlookers, or solemn discussions of the operations of the digestive system, conducted with motherly strangers. On the less good days, I feel like that wooden-legged piglet belonging to a sadistically sentimental family that could bear to eat him only a chunk at a time. Except that cancer isn’t so … considerate.
I have never been able to sing, but I could once recite poetry and quote prose and was sometimes even asked to do so. And timing is everything: the exquisite moment when one can break in and cap a story, or turn a line for a laugh, or ridicule an opponent. I lived for moments like that. Now, if I want to enter a conversation, I have to attract attention in some other way, and live with the awful fact that people are then listening “sympathetically.” At least they don’t have to pay attention for long: I can’t keep it up and anyway can’t stand to.
I can’t agree much with Hitchens when it comes to Christianity, Mother Teresa, belief in God or Atheism . . . even politics. But there is no denying his courage, skill and greatness as a writer.
Andrew Anthony in The Observer (November 17, 2010), after an interview with Christopher Hitchens, wrote:
Nonetheless, Hitchens mentions a "narrow but quite deep difference" between himself and Dawkins [when it comes to Atheism]. Unlike the evangelical biologist, he has no wish to convert everyone in the world to his point of view, even if it were possible. In other words, he savours the counterargument. Like John Stuart Mill, he is aware of the empty end of achieved objectives. The true satisfaction lies in the means. Although Hitchens is often seen as a provocateur or a contrarian, and both are indeed aspects of his character, at heart he’s incurably in love with the dialectic.
And he has with voice and pen given us a lifetime arguments to counter.
Hitchens concludes this article in Vanity Fair thus:
What do I hope for? If not a cure, then a remission. And what do I want back? In the most beautiful apposition of two of the simplest words in our language: the freedom of speech.
And, Lord, if it be your will,
Let Christopher speak some more