2012年10月7日 星期日

Christopher Hitchens



 On the Road to Timisoara
  Christopher Hitchens. 1990
The Best of Granta Travel ,


書評

一個美國公共知識分子肖像


偶爾翻閱嚴肅期刊的讀者都知道,“克里斯托弗·希欽斯”(Christopher Hitchens),這個名字極易引起極端的情緒——要麼欣喜,要麼暴怒,抑或兩者兼得。總而言之,他的文章不可不讀。他是我們的雜食性知識分子,不論你 喜歡他還是討厭他,都不得不承認他的機智。在發表了針對修女特蕾莎(Mother Teresa)大不敬言論之後,他一直以肆意批評上帝及其教徒而聞名。他寫過一篇一本正經的調侃文章,要求以戰犯的罪名審判亨利·基辛格(Henry Kissinger),跟着又被曾經的左派友人打上了“叛徒”的標籤,因為他大張旗鼓支持阿富汗和伊拉克的戰爭。(他以一篇令人難忘的文字——他寫下的許 多文字都當得起“令人難忘”這個形容詞——進行反擊,說那些批評他的反戰人士是“這樣的一類人,這類人如果發現自家孩子的床上有毒蛇,他們的第一反應就是 給動物保護協會打電話。”)他不幸罹患食道癌,生命垂危(譯者按,希欽斯於2011年12月去世,此文寫作時間在此之前),卻以超乎常人的鎮定面對這個事 實。
他的第五本文集——恐怕也是最後一本了——可以告訴我們,究竟是什麼,將使我們在他離世之後仍會對他念念不忘。
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Brooks Kraft/Corbis
克里斯托弗·希欽斯

先從最明顯的地方講起吧。他多產得讓人摸不着頭腦。《有待商榷》(Arguably)是一本分量十足的書,共有780多頁,收錄了107篇文章。其 中一些文章提到了他在阿富汗、烏干達和伊朗等艱苦地區的廣泛遊歷;另一些文章雖然出自書齋,也是出自一位飽學之士的書齋。文集當中的文章發表於各種出版 物,同時他還發表了反宗教的暢銷評論《上帝沒什麼了不起》(God Is Not Great)、簡短卻廣受好評的托馬斯·傑斐遜(Thomas Jefferson)傳記、名為《希欽斯22條》(Hitch-22)的回憶錄,以及各式各樣的論辯、閱讀指南、信件和反駁文章。與此同時,他每天喝下的 酒足以讓大多數人步履蹣跚。2006年,伊恩·帕克(Ian Parker)在《紐約客》雜誌發表了一篇一錘定音的希欽斯小傳,其中提到,希欽斯的寫作速度可以媲美有些人的閱讀速度。

博學是希欽斯的第二個不凡特質。他有時也會為此沾沾自喜,不止一次,他一邊從書架上抽出一部有待重評的經典,一邊告訴大家,他第一次讀這部經典是在 12歲。不過,他的博學絕不僅僅是一種人前賣弄的把戲。《有待商榷》當中的一大部分都是他撰寫的書評,他為《大西洋月刊》撰寫的書評則是其中最為志存高遠 的篇章。拿到待評著作——比如關於斯蒂芬·斯彭德、格拉厄姆·格林或者薩默塞特·毛姆的全新文學傳記,以及新出版的菲利普·拉金或者傑西卡·密特福德 (Jessica Mitford)書信集——之後,他會把它們當作大發議論的借口,用他那武斷的洞察力去剖析相關作家的整個生平和全部著作。撰寫書評的時候,他經常都會重 讀幾本相關著作,唯恐自己的驚人記憶有所不足。他在撰寫書評方面的拿手好戲是,不僅可以讓你免除閱讀所評書籍的勞苦,還會讓你覺得自己剛剛聽完了一個暢快 淋漓的學術講座。
非要給這一類的文集編排一個結構的話,我們就得把他的文學評論跟他的政論和國際新聞報道區分開來。然而,他的頭腦並不受這些條條框框的約束。他的魅 力之一就在於他經常用小說和詩歌來佐證自己關於戰爭和政治的評論文字。他有篇文章名義上是在評論布殊一家,其中卻說到了布萊希特、王爾德、奧威爾、狄更 斯、貝克特、金斯利·艾米斯、奧伯龍·沃、伊夫林·沃和喬伊斯·卡里,簡直沒給布殊一家留下什麼篇幅。他還有一篇關於領土分割的權威評論,引述的重點對象 卻是英國詩人奧登,而非歷史學家。(順便提一句,此文記述了英國在簽訂關於領土的城下之盟時,犯下了愚蠢錯誤,令人自慚自警。此文剛好在美國入侵伊拉克的 那個月發表,因此我很想知道,寫作的時候,他是否曾經停筆思忖,美國究竟有沒有能力讓那個國家恢復正常秩序。)

從廣度和高度上來說,他的寫作範圍都堪稱不同凡響。不管是評述黎巴嫩的政治,還是闡述哈利·波特系列中的概念與社會關係,他都同樣自信。他可以從亨 利八世的宮廷寫到巴德爾-邁因霍夫集團(譯者按:Baader-Meinhof gang,二戰後形成的德國左翼武裝組織),跟着又轉入口交是不是一項具有強烈美國特色的性活動的問題。他對《十誡》進行評估,並提出一些頗有見地的修正 意見。他還對各種委婉說辭大加撻伐,最生動的例子便是親身體驗水刑,由此便可以言之鑿鑿地斷言:水刑並不是什麼“強化型訊問技術”,而是不折不扣的“拷 打”。

他的信仰之一就是“無信仰”
儘管我喜歡希欽斯(他跟我妻子是多年好友,他喝了酒之後的言談也堪稱是一種令人迷醉的行為藝術),儘管他生命垂危,但我並不能對他嘴下留情,因為這 樣也違背了他所信奉的精神。有鑒於此,咱們不妨坦白承認,這本文集當中的確有一些極度自以為是的文章。他從來都不怕往別人的傷口上撒鹽,因此就說卡倫·休 斯(Karen Hughes)是一頭“布殊親友團里的無知叫驢”,說肯尼迪總統不僅是“一個道德敗壞的政治災難”,還是“一個長皰流膿的菲羅克忒忒斯(譯者 按:Philoctetes,希臘神話人物,因為身染惡毒而遭奧德修斯遺棄)。”他經常自我重複,有一些文章帶有匆忙拼湊的味道,少數文章還因為雕飾過度 而變得平庸。他曾經為《名利場》寫過一篇題為“女人為何無趣”(Why Women Aren’t Funny)的文章,斷定男人比女人幽默是由進化決定的,因為運氣不佳的男性必須依賴自己的幽默天賦來勸說女性跟他們交配。在文集的導言當中,他稱《女人 為何無趣》為“我最讓人立刻產生誤解的文章”,可我卻覺得,即便進行了正確的解讀,人們仍然可能認為它帶有居高臨下的味道,甚至可說是無趣到了犯罪的程 度。

該批評的都批評了。但我仍然認為,希欽斯是我們這個時代最發人深省的思想者之一,也是最有趣的作家之一,即便是在——興許應該說“尤其是在”——他 讓人惱怒的時候。一方面,他顯然想贏得你的認同,另一方面,你總是能感覺到,他在某種程度上一直在為歷史寫作。正因為此,很多他所謂的“應景文字”——在 罕有的謙遜時刻,他會這樣形容那些文章——才會如此值得彙編成冊。

我認為,儘管希欽斯桀驁不羈,可我們並不能像社會主義左翼陣營中那些他曾經的朋友一樣,把他貶低為投機知識分子、淺薄的業餘學者或者徹頭徹尾的煽動 分子,那是十分不公平的。他是個擁有多種信仰的人,雖然他的信仰往往有待商榷(注意這本文集的書名 《有待商榷》),在我看來他是發自肺腑、前後一致的。

當然,他的信仰之一就是“無信仰”。他認為“上帝”是某些宗教僱傭的一種迷信,目的是實施控制和鎮壓。伊斯蘭極端主義的崛起加劇了他對宗教的敵視, 他往往把伊斯蘭極端主義視為一個私敵,部分是因為伊斯蘭極端主義對他的朋友薩爾曼·拉什迪的追殺令。他的反宗教態度激怒了許多人,就連那些並不虔誠的人也 可能感到受到冒犯,指責他總是對宗教信仰和實踐的有益方面視而不見。不過,總體而言,他的宗教批評體現的更多是深刻的思想,並不是惡意的嘲諷。正如邁克 爾·金斯利在專欄文章中所說:“上帝應該覺得受用才對:希欽斯把他當作成年人來對待,這跟大多數高聲吸引他關注的人不同。”

更重要的是,希欽斯對宗教的警惕並不僅僅是一種摧毀偶像般的嘲弄(他對特蕾莎嬤嬤的貶抑比較接近這個類型),而是出自他的精英意識與階層感。他珍視 世俗統治權、理性論辯、多元主義、寬容(只是容不得沒有幽默感或者無趣的人)和自由,痛恨各種壓抑人性的邪惡“主義”——比如共產主義、帝國主義和種族主 義,最痛恨的則是極權主義。

顯而易見,他的偶像是喬治·奧威爾,在文集中他經常被希欽斯當成描寫對象、道德試金石、文學搗亂分子、腳註或者花邊陪襯。希欽斯對於阿富汗和伊拉克 戰爭的積極支持在文集中只是順便一提,而非主體,比如關於一篇阿富汗婦女解放的文章,或者是來自伊拉克庫爾德斯坦(Kurdistan)的旅行報道。人們 可以看出希欽斯意圖模仿奧威爾,後者曾在西班牙內戰期間支持共和人士抗擊佛朗哥帶領的法西斯主義分子。和平主義也是希欽斯所擯棄的一種“主義”。
天堂會為失去他而失色幾分
人們經常把希欽斯和整整一代絕頂聰明的英國作家相提並論,比如馬丁·艾米斯、伊恩·麥克尤恩、詹姆斯·芬頓,不過,在我看來,希欽斯和他們之間的重 大區別在於他是個美國人。讀這本文集的時候,讓我印象最深的也是這一點。他的出生地和求學地都不在美國(這樣興許更好),他自己選擇成為一個美國人。在美 國居住了25年之後,他於2007年加入了美國籍。對於這個第二祖國帶給自己的影響,他有一些獨特的體會,這在文集當中的許多篇章中都有體現,比如《純粹 美國》系列(All American)的開篇章節。

他的第二祖國似乎只限於狹長的美國沿海地區,跟內陸各州沒多少關係。他住在華盛頓,夏天則會去加利福尼亞度假。作為一名深情關注喀布爾或者胡志明市 的新聞記者,他似乎沒有興趣去報道位於華盛頓和加利福尼亞之間的區域。他很少踏出他自己熟悉的地區,其中一次是到科羅拉多斯普林斯去參觀美國空軍學院。趕 上這樣的時候,他會驚訝不已地發現,那些地方居然住着一些實實在在的人,他們“和氣、坦率而又剛毅”。有趣的是,他居然挖苦約翰·厄普代克,說厄普代克表 現出了“一種智力和審美層面的厭惡……厭惡大部分美國生活的粗鄙和平庸。”厄普代克對普通美國人的看法興許抽象和矯飾,可他好歹是拿出了一個看法。希欽斯 發現了美國的許多可愛之處,然而,就這本文集而言,他的大部分發現似乎都來自書本。
但他的發現出於睿智,因而同樣真切、同樣重要。希欽斯堅持認為,美國是一個基於世俗主義和權力分立的國家,這個國家對待革命分子和不合時宜者有一種值得讚賞的包容,並且堅定不移地支持多元化。
將美國宣布為一個“猶太-基督教國家”的思潮再次湧起之時,希欽斯欣喜不已地找到了大量證據,證明國父們並不是那麼熱心宗教,絕對不曾產生創立一個 教權國家的念頭。他為《旗幟周刊》寫過一篇書評,評述的是布魯克·艾倫的《道德少數派:心存疑慮的國父們》(Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers),其中寫道:“美國革命延續了17世紀40年代英國革命的傳統,英國革命的領袖和代言人無疑都是新教原教旨主義者,然而,這一事實並沒有 束縛我們的開國元勛,說它能束縛我們也不妥當。實際上,我們可以十拿九穩地說,英國既有的新教教會是1776年《獨立宣言》的簽名者們決意擯棄的模式之 一。”絕非巧合的是,文集當中的第一篇文章就是這篇書評。

希欽斯建起了一座屬於自己的美國先賢祠,美國也為他提供了數不清可供膜拜的發明創造者、激進改革者、理想主義者和社會活動家。傑斐遜、本·富蘭克林、托馬斯·潘恩和林肯都得到了他充滿敬慕的獨到評價。不足為奇的是,他支持反奴隸制起義者約翰·布朗,與那些視布朗為英雄的人並肩作戰,反對把布朗看成 恐怖分子。(從道德層面來說,希欽斯關注的重點是目的而非手段;他把自己的文集獻給三個自殺身亡的阿拉伯人,他們都是在“阿拉伯之春”中殉身的,其中一個 在用汽車炸彈襲擊利比亞兵站時身亡。)他鍾愛馬克·吐溫、厄普頓·辛克萊、索爾·貝婁等人的著作,他在這些美國立國以來的作品當中看到了“對於革命和解放 理念的忠誠”。

傑斐遜曾經派遣成立不久的美國海軍去打擊搶奪財物的巴巴裏海盜,希欽斯由此為當今美國對抗伊斯蘭狂熱分子的行動找到了先例,並且找到了一個依據,說 明美國可以在世界範圍內有選擇性地、大膽地使用武力。在其它一些文章當中,他又採用了格拉厄姆·格林的觀點,對美國在冷戰當中扮演的角色進行道義上的嘲諷。

有些時候,這本書給人的感覺就像是一場尚未完結的辯論,辯論的對手則是大西洋對岸的左翼知識分子,他們傾向於將美國視為一個缺乏歷史、文化和道德基礎的國家。
希欽斯為左傾的《衛報》寫過一篇評論馬克思作品的文章,戳到了他那些社會主義老朋友的痛處:“如果你想尋找歷史的諷刺,不妨看看這樣的一個事實:馬 克思和恩格斯都認為俄國是反動勢力的堅固堡壘,美國則是孕育自由和平等的絕好溫床。(兩個國家的)學校可不會拿這種東西來教你。”

他在導言中寫道:“眼下有許多輕浮的言論,說我的第二祖國在信心和資源兩方面都已經‘衰落’。 我可不會附和這樣的詆毀。”

克里斯托弗·希欽斯:屬於美國的愛國者。我們做得比你差遠了。
如果上帝真的存在,假使他不懂何為諷刺,那他就會把希欽斯關進地獄最酷熱的地方。如果上帝懂得何為諷刺,就會把希欽斯打發到一個既沒有酒喝也沒有書讀的小鎮,讓他待到天荒地老。不管怎樣,天堂都會因此失色幾分。

本文最初發表於2011年9月11日。
Bill Keller是《紐約時報》前主編,現為本報專欄作家,也同時為本報雜誌撰稿。
翻譯:李家真
 ****


2011/12/17 晚上在BBC Newsnight 節目看到Christopher Hitchens 的面談
Wiki 的英文版 (English ) 有更完整的介紹

克里斯多福·希欽斯(Christopher Eric Hitchens,1949年4月13日-2011年12月15日 )是英國出生的猶太裔美國人,牛津大學貝利奧爾學院第三級優等(third class honour)畢業。激進左派支持者,無神論者反宗教者,支持墮胎全面合法,以及包括古柯鹼安非他命大麻等藥物的精神藥品合法化。以苛評聞名。他抨擊的對象包括所有美國共和黨人士(例如亨利·季辛吉隆納·雷根)、宗教人士(德肋撒修女天主教會),甚至較為溫和派的美國民主黨人士(例如比爾·柯林頓)。

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Hitch-10

Hitch-10


The 10 things that publisher Jonathan Karp found most admirable about Christopher Hitchens.

Why Hitchens Became an American

Why Hitchens Became an American


Poet James Fenton explains Hitchens’ great love of the United States.

Hitchens and I Shared an Office

Hitchens and I Shared an Office


Mother Jones' David Corn on what he learned from his office mate.

Hitchens Teaches Me About Every War in the World

Hitchens Teaches Me About Every War in the World


Fred Kaplan on Hitch’s dizzying knowledge of international relations.

Sneaking Into Iraq With Hitchens

Sneaking Into Iraq With Hitchens


The Weekly Standard's Matt Labash: "No secrets are being divulged when I report that Christopher liked a drink every now and then. Preferably now."

Does Alcohol Improve Your Writing?

Does Alcohol Improve Your Writing?


Putting Hitch’s theory to the test.

The Hitch at Hay

The Hitch at Hay


Peter Florence on Hitch's terrible standup comedy routine, along with the greatest performance of his lifetime.

Lamb With Lion

Lamb With Lion


Timothy Garton Ash on a Sunday lunch with Hitchens, poolside in California.



以下的機械翻譯要等我有空再處理

Christopher Hitchens is Dead at 62

Iconoclast and public intellectual passes away at a Houston hospital after battle with cancer.



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1323823320203
Christopher Hitchens passed away at the age of 62.
Christopher Hitchens is dead.
The prolific journalist, well-known public intellectual and noted contrarian, who is perhaps most famous in the eyes of many Americans for his best-selling exegesis against religion, passed away Thursday at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He was 62.
Hitchens, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and The Atlantic, and a regular columnist at Slate, discovered in June 2010 that he had Stage 4 esophageal cancer, a diagnosis that forced the iconoclast to curtail what had once been a full schedule of public appearances but that did little to slow his prodigious output of essays, columns and book reviews up until the very end.
At a rare public appearance in his final months, Hitchens conceded that his time was running short, but said that he had no plans to give up his life's work in the face of his deteriorating health. "I'm not going to quit until I absolutely have to," he said then, drawing an ovation from the crowd.
Hitchens lived up to that promise, authoring articles for a number of publications during his final weeks on everything from American politics to his own mortality. Writing for Vanity Fair in a piece that was published only days before he died, Hitchens reaffirmed that he hoped to be fully conscious and awake as he passed away, "in order to 'do' death in the active and not the passive sense," much as he had previously explained to his readers was his wish even before he learned of his cancer and prognosis.
"I do, still, try to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span," he wrote.
Born in Portsmouth, England, in 1949, Hitchens studied at Oxford before launching his journalism career in the 1970s with the magazines International Socialism and the New Statesman. In the early 1980s, he emigrated to the United States, where he was a regular columnist at The Nation for two decades before parting ways with the liberal magazine after proudly disagreeing with its editors about the Iraq war.
Hitchens won the National Magazine Award for commentary in 2007, the same year that he became an American citizen on his 58th birthday. Foreign Policy named him to its list of the top 100 public intellectuals the following year, and Forbes magazine labeled him one of the 25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media in 2009, a distinction that took some by surprise given Hitchens's vocal support of George W. Bush's war on terror.
He was a frequent guest on news programs and at public debates, and rarely passed up the opportunity to defend his positions when given the opportunity to do so. He was the author of nearly 20 books, including God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Hitch-22: A Memoir, and Arguably, a collection of his more recent essays that was published earlier this year.
Hitchens remained steadfast in his criticism of religion even in the face of his grim prognosis. In an August 2010 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, his colleague at The Atlantic, Hitchens made it known that even if he were to somehow recant his devout atheism on his deathbed, any apparent conversion would be a hollow gesture. "The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain," he said. "I can't guarantee that such an entity wouldn't make such a ridiculous remark. But no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a ridiculous remark."
克里斯托弗希欽斯是62死孤星叛逆者和公共知識分子通過在休斯敦的一家醫院後,與癌症抗爭。喬希福爾希斯 |發表日(星期五),2011年12月16日,在美東時間上午12:20281323823320203克里斯托弗希欽斯在62歲去世。克里斯托弗希欽斯死了。多產記者,著名的公共知識分子,並指出逆勢,也許是最有名在許多美國人他最暢銷的反宗教釋義的眼中,星期四在得克薩斯州休斯敦MD安德森癌症中心逝世他得年62。希欽斯,在名利場和大西洋的特約編輯,並發現,在2010年6月,他第4階段食管癌的診斷,迫使反傳統,以減少什麼曾經是一個公開露面的全時間表,但在板岩定期專欄作家沒有慢直到最後他的散文,列和書評的驚人輸出。在罕見的公開露面,他的最後幾個月中,希金斯承認,他的時間不多,但表示,他不打算放棄他一生的工作,面對他的健康狀況惡化。他說:“我不會退出,直到我絕對要,”那麼,從一個歡呼的人群。希欽斯住在他這一承諾,創作了一些出版物文章的最後幾個星期,一切從美國的政治,以他自己的死亡。 “名利場”的寫作,出版他去世的前幾天片,希欽斯重申,他希望得到充分的自覺和清醒,他去世,“為了”做“主動而不是被動的感死亡,”許多,因為他以前向他的讀者解釋他的願望,甚至在他得知他的癌症和預後。“依然,我這樣做,嘗試培育的好奇心和蔑視的小火苗:願意發揮出字符串的結束,希望倖免沒有正確屬於一個壽命,”他寫道。在樸次茅斯,英國,出生於 1949年,希金斯曾就讀於牛津大學與雜誌的國際社會主義運動和“新政治家”上世紀 70年代才推出他的記者生涯。在20世紀 80年代初,他移居到美國,他在全美二十年前,離別後,自豪地與不同意對伊拉克戰爭它的編輯與自由“雜誌的方式定期專欄作家。希欽斯榮獲國家在2007年進行評論雜誌獎,同年,他成為美國公民,在他的第58個生日。外交政策命名他它的頂部 100公共知識分子列表次年,和“福布斯”雜誌標有他在2009年在美國媒體的25個最有影響力的的自由派一個區別,花了希欽斯的喬治 W ·聲樂支持驚喜一些之一布什的反恐戰爭。他是一個新聞節目,並在公開辯論的常客,而很少通過捍衛自己的立場時,有機會這樣做的機會。他是近20本書,包括神也不是很大的作者:宗教如何毒藥的一切,審判亨利基辛格,希契- 22:一本回憶錄,並可以說,他最近的是今年早些時候發表的散文集合。希金斯仍然堅持他對宗教的批判,甚至在面對他嚴峻的預後。在2010年8月接受採訪時,他的同事在大西洋與杰弗裡戈德堡,希欽斯知道,即使他以某種方式宣布放棄他在臨終前的虔誠的無神論,任何明顯的轉換將是一個空洞的姿態。 “這種說法的實體可能是一個囈語,嚇壞了的人,其癌細胞已經擴散到大腦,”他說。 “我不能保證這樣一個實體將不會作出這樣的荒謬言論。,但沒有一個像我辨認會不斷做出這樣的荒謬言論。”




Christopher Hitchens, a Man of His Words


Anyone who occasionally opens one of our more serious periodicals has learned that the byline of Christopher Hitchens is an opportunity to be delighted or maddened — possibly both — but in any case not to be missed. He is our intellectual omnivore, exhilarating and infuriating, if not in equal parts at least with equal wit. He has been rather famously an aggressive critic of God and his followers, after cutting his sacrilegious teeth on Mother Teresa. He wrote a deadpan argument for trying Henry Kissinger as a war criminal, then was branded an apostate by former friends on the left for vigorously supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. (He memorably — a lot of what Hitchens has written merits the adverb — shot back that his antiwar critics were “the sort who, discovering a viper in the bed of their child, would place the first call to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.”) And he is dying of esophageal cancer, a fact he has faced with exceptional aplomb.
This fifth and, one fears, possibly last collection of his essays is a reminder of all that will be missed when the cancer is finished with him.
按图放大
Brooks Kraft/Corbis
Christopher Hitchens
Let’s begin with the obvious. He is unfathomably prolific. “Arguably” is a great ingot of a book, more than 780 pages containing 107 essays. Some of them entailed extensive travel in inconvenient places like Afghanistan and Uganda and Iran; those that are more in the way of armchair punditry come from an armchair within reach of a very well-used library. They appeared in various publications during a period in which he also published his best-selling exegesis against religion, “God Is Not Great”; a short and well-­reviewed biography of Thomas Jefferson; a memoir, “Hitch-22”; as well as various debates, reading guides, letters and rebuttals — all done while consuming daily quantities of alcoholic drink that would cripple most people. As Ian Parker noted in his definitive 2006 New Yorker profile of Hitchens, the man writes as fast as some people read.
The second notable thing about Hitchens is his erudition. He doesn’t always wear it lightly — more than once he remarks, upon pulling out a classic for reconsideration, that he first read the work in question when he was 12 — but it is not just a parlor trick. In the book reviews that make up much of this collection, the most ambitious of them written for The Atlantic, he takes the assigned volume — a new literary biography of Stephen Spender or Graham Greene or Somerset Maugham, or a new collection of letters by Philip Larkin or Jessica Mitford — and uses it as pretext to review, with opinionated insights, the entire life and work of the writer in question, often supplementing his prodigious memory by rereading several books. He is a master of the essay that not only spares you the trouble of reading the book under review, but leaves you feeling you have just completed an invigorating graduate seminar.
Although the necessity of imposing some order on a collection of this type means that his literary reviews are more or less sequestered from his political polemics and foreign reporting, his mind does not observe these boundaries. One of his charms is his habit of pulling in a novel or poem to shore up an argument about war or politics. A piece that is nominally a riff on the Bush family invokes Brecht, Wilde, Orwell, Dickens, Beckett, one Amis (Kingsley), two Waughs (Auberon and Evelyn) and Joyce Cary, leaving scarcely any room for Bushes. A magisterial essay on the subject of partition draws more heavily on Auden than on historians. (That piece, by the way, is a humbling account of all the ways Britain has blundered while mapmaking at gunpoint. I wondered whether the essay, published in the same month as the invasion of Iraq, gave him any pause about our competence to set that country right.)
His range is extraordinary, both in breadth and in altitude. He is as self-­confident on the politics of Lebanon as on the ontology of the Harry Potter books. He can pivot from the court of Henry VIII to the Baader-Meinhof gang, then stoop to the question of whether fellatio is the quintessentially American sex act. He reviews the Ten Commandments, offering some thoughtful revisions. He wages war against euphemism — most vividly by having himself subjected to water­boarding, so that he can report with authority that it is not an “enhanced interrogation” technique but unquestionably “torture.”
It would be antithetical to the Hitchens spirit to cut him slack just because I like him (he’s been a friend of my wife’s for many years, and his alcohol-propelled conversation is a captivating form of performance art) or because he is dying of cancer. So let’s acknowledge that some of the essays in this collection are exceedingly smug. He has no qualms about adding insult to injury: Karen Hughes is a “braying Bush-crony ignoramus”; President Kennedy was not only “a moral defective and a political disaster,” but “a poxed and suppurating Philoctetes.” He repeats himself. Some of his work feels dashed off. A few pieces fall flat from an excess of trying. In a Vanity Fair bit called “Why Women Aren’t Funny,” he posits that men are funnier for Darwinian reasons: hapless males need the gift of humor to persuade women to mate with them. In the introduction to the book, he describes this as “the most instantly misinterpreted of all my articles,” but I think it is possible to interpret it correctly and still find it patronizing and, worse, criminally unfunny.
So, having paid my dues to critical candor, I still find Hitchens one of the most stimulating thinkers and entertaining writers we have, even when — perhaps especially when — he provokes. And while he clearly wants to win you over, you always sense that he is playing in part to the jury of history, which is why so much of what he might, in a rare self-deprecating moment, refer to as hackwork stands up so well to ­anthologizing.
Although he is possessed of a free-range mind, I think it is grossly unfair to charge, as some of his former friends on the socialist left have done, that he is an intellectual opportunist or a dilettante or a mere provocateur. He is a man of beliefs, and while they are often arguable (note the title of the book), they seem to me genuine and coherent.
One of his beliefs, of course, is un­belief. He regards God as a superstition employed by religions for the purpose of control and repression. His hostility to religion has been fortified by the rise of Islamic extremism, which he tends to take personally, in part because of the fatwa against his good friend Salman Rushdie. His aversion to religion has offended many, and even those who are not devout may complain that he tends to overlook benign aspects of religious faith and practice, but his critique is generally more thoughtful than scornful. As Michael Kinsley has written in these pages, “God should be flattered: unlike most of those clamoring for his attention, Hitchens treats him like an adult.”
More important, Hitchens’s wariness of religion is not just an iconoclastic taunt (his denunciation of Mother Teresa falls more into that category), but a component part of an ideology with a fine pedigree. He treasures secular governance, reasoned argument, pluralism, tolerance (except of the humorless or the boring) and freedom, and loathes the wicked isms of oppression — communism, imperialism, racism and above all totalitarianism.
His obvious role model is George Orwell, who recurs often in this volume as subject, moral touchstone, literary kib­itzer, footnote and foil. One senses that in his enthusiasm for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — which arise in this volume more incidentally than frontally, in a piece on the emancipation of Afghan women or a report on a holiday in Iraqi Kurdistan — Hitchens is emulating Orwell’s embrace of the Republican cause against Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Another ism he rejects is pacifism.
Hitchens is often grouped with a generation of dazzlingly clever British writers who happen to be his friends — Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, James Fenton — but what sets him apart in important ways, and what struck me forcefully reading this collection, is that he is an American. Not American born or educated (probably just as well), but American by choice. He took citizenship in 2007 after a quarter-century as a resident. Much of this book, including the opening chapter of essays under the heading “All American,” reflects his idiosyncratic take on what his adopted country means to him.
His can seem a narrowly coastal America. The flyover states don’t much exist. A journalist who is such an empathetic observer in Kabul or Ho Chi Minh City seems to have little reportorial curiosity about the space between Washington, where he lives, and California, where he has spent his summers. On the rare occasions when he ventures out of his American comfort zone, as in a visit to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, he is bemused to learn that real people — “good-humored, outspoken and tough-minded” — reside there. It is interesting that he mocks John Updike for displaying “an intellectual and aesthetic disgust . . . with the grossness and banality of much of American life.” Updike’s view of ordinary Americans may be reductionist or genteel, but at least he has one. Hitchens finds much to love about America, but on the evidence of this collection, he seems to find it mostly in books.
But what he finds is no less genuine and essential for being rather cerebral. Hitchens holds to an America founded on secularism and the separation of powers, a nation with an admirable affection for revolutionaries and misfits, a defining embrace of variety.
At a time when America is experiencing a resurgent campaign to proclaim us a “Judeo-Christian nation,” Hitchens delights in the plentiful evidence that the founders were not all that religious and certainly not interested in creating a sectarian country. “The ancestor of the American Revolution was the English Revolution of the 1640s, whose leaders and spokesmen were certainly Protestant fundamentalists, but that did not bind the framers and cannot be said to bind us, either,” he writes, in a Weekly Standard review of Brooke Allen’s book “Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers,” which is, not coincidentally, the first essay in this book. “Indeed, the established Protestant church in Britain was one of the models which we can be quite sure the signatories of 1776 were determined to avoid emulating.”
Hitchens erects his own pantheon of American heroes, and the country offers no end of inventive, radical, idealistic and activist figures for him to admire. Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and Lincoln all get loving and refreshing treatment here. Not surprisingly, he takes the side of those who regard the antislavery insurrectionist John Brown as a visionary hero against those who deem him a terrorist. (Morally, Hitchens is more about ends than means; his book is dedicated to three Arab suicides who martyred themselves in the Arab Spring, one by car-bombing a Libyan Army post.) He embraces the literature of Mark Twain, Upton Sinclair, Saul Bellow and others, finding in American writing since the founding “a certain allegiance to the revolutionary and emancipating idea.”
In Jefferson’s decision to send the young American Navy against the extortionist Barbary pirates, Hitchens discovers a precedent for the current American engagements with Islamic fanatics, and an argument for a selective but bold use of American power in the world. Elsewhere, he takes on Graham Greene’s moral cynicism about America’s part in the cold war.
At times the book feels like an ongoing argument with the leftist intellectuals on the other side of the Atlantic, who tend to view America as lacking in history, culture or moral standing.
In an essay on the journalism of Karl Marx, written for the left-leaning Guardian, he puts an elbow in the ribs of his old socialist friends: “If you are looking for an irony of history, you will find it . . . in the fact that he and Engels considered Russia the great bastion of reaction and America the great potential nurse of liberty and equality. This is not the sort of thing they teach you in school (in either country).”
“There is currently much easy talk about the ‘decline’ of my adopted country, both in confidence and in resources,” he writes in his introduction. “I don’t choose to join this denigration.”
Christopher Hitchens: American patriot. We’ve done a lot worse.
If there is a God, and he lacks a sense of irony, he will send Hitchens to the hottest precinct of hell. If God does have a sense of irony, Hitchens will spend eternity in a town that serves no liquor and has no library. Either way, heaven will be a less interesting place.
Bill Keller, formerly The Times’s execu­tive editor, is now a columnist for the newspaper and a writer for The Times Magazine.




 《中英對照讀新聞》Iran foundation boosts bounty to kill Rushdie 伊朗基金會提高追殺魯西迪的懸賞獎金

◎俞智敏
An Iranian foundation has reportedly increased a bounty for the death of Salman Rushdie, saying that if the British writer had previously been killed for blasphemy an anti-Islam film currently enraging Muslims would never have been made.
伊朗一所基金會據說已提高了殺死作家魯西迪的懸賞獎金,聲稱假如這位英國作家先前就因褻瀆神明而被殺,最近惹惱全球穆斯林的一部反伊斯蘭影片根本就不可能會被拍攝。
Iranian media quoted Hassan Sane’i, a cleric heading the 15 of Khordad Foundation, as saying in a statement that he was "adding another $500,000 to the reward for killing Rushdie."
伊朗媒體引述3月15日基金會負責人、伊斯蘭教士哈山.薩內的話說,他要把「殺死魯西迪的懸賞獎金再提高50萬美元。」
With the increase, the foundation was now offering $3.3 million for the death of Rushdie, who since 1989 has been the target of a Iranian fatwa calling for his murder for allegedly blaspheming Islam and its Prophet Mohammed in his book "The Satanic Verses."
加上這筆錢後,該基金會現在懸賞追殺魯西迪的獎金已達330萬美元。魯西迪自1989年就成為伊朗所頒布格殺令的目標,理由是據稱魯西迪在他的小說「魔鬼詩篇」中褻瀆了伊斯蘭及其先知穆罕默德。
The foundation’s statement was quoted saying that, unless Rushdie were killed, "the movie offending the prophet will not be the last contemptuous attempt." It added that "these days are the most appropriate time to carry it (Rushdie’s murder) out."
據媒體引述該基金會聲明指出,除非魯西迪被殺死,「這部冒犯先知的影片絕不會是最後一次有人企圖藐視伊斯蘭。」聲明中還說,「現在正是最適合執行(魯西迪追殺令)的時機。」
Indian-born Rushdie, 65, spent a decade in hiding after Iran’s spiritual leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued the 1989 fatwa against him for his book.(AFP)
出生於印度、現年65歲的魯西迪在伊朗已故精神領袖何梅尼於1989年因為他的小說而對他發出追殺令後,曾被迫銷聲匿跡達10年之久。(法新社)



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