Christopher Hitchens, the author, writer and Vanity Fair contributing editor, has died, themagazine announced late Thursday. He was 62.
Hitchens, who had been battling esophageal cancer since early 2010, died at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, surrounded by friends, Vanity Fair said.
"There will never be another like Christopher," Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter said in a statement. "A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar. Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls."
The brash, combative and provocative Hitchens was an "incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant," Vanity Fair's Juli Weiner wrote in one of what will assuredly be many memoriams in the next several hours.
His last book, "Hitch-22," was published shortly before his diagnosis, forcing him to cancel a book tour.
"I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus," Hitchens wrote then. "This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice."
Yet, he continued to write about his fight with cancer--among other weighty topics--in the months that followed.
"Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic," he wrote in Vanity Fair last year.
In June 2011, he observed: "My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends."
We'll post selections of remembrances from some of those friends, and obituaries, below. Check back here for updates.
The New Yorker's Christopher Buckley:
We were friends for more than thirty years, which is a long time but, now that he is gone, seems not nearly long enough. I was rather nervous when I first met him, one night in London in 1977, along with his great friend Martin Amis. I had read his journalism and was already in awe of his brilliance and wit and couldn't think what on earth I could bring to his table. I don't know if he sensed the diffidence on my part—no, of course he did; he never missed anything—but he set me instantly at ease, and so began one of the great friendships and benisons of my life. It occurs to me that "benison" is a word I first learned from Christopher, along with so much else.
NPR's David Folkenflik:
Hitchens confronted his disease in part by writing, bringing the same unsparing insight to his mortality that he had directed at so many other subjects. Over the years, Hitchens' caustic attention was directed at a broad range of subjects, including Henry Kissinger, Prince Charles, Bob Hope, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa."If you're at Vanity Fair and you're talking about some of the things that Christopher has taken on, at the top of the list is going to be Mother Teresa," said Graydon Carter, editor at Vanity Fair and a longtime friend.
The Associated Press' Hillel Italie:
Eloquent and intemperate, bawdy and urbane, he was an acknowledged contrarian and contradiction—half-Christian, half-Jewish and fully non-believing; a native of England who settled in America; a former Trotskyite who backed the Iraq war and supported George W. Bush. ... He was a militant humanist who believed in pluralism and racial justice and freedom of speech, big cities and fine art and the willingness to stand the consequences. He was smacked in the rear by then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and beaten up in Beirut. He once submitted to waterboarding to prove that it was indeed torture.
The Washington Post's Matt Schudel:
Hitchens [was] a sharp-witted provocateur who used his formidable learning, biting wit and muscular prose style to skewer what he considered high-placed hypocrites, craven lackeys of the right and left, "Islamic fascists" and religious faith of any kind.
ABC News' Joel Siegel:
Hitchens became the public face of atheism. Critics assumed his cancer diagnosis, in 2010, would lead Hitchens to relent and embrace God. But he remained a proud non-believer to the very end, as he made clear in an early October 2011 speech at the annual Atheist Alliance of America convention in Houston, as he accepted the Freethinker of the Year Award. His body gaunt from the ravages of cancer, Hitchens said, "We have the same job we always had: to say that there are no final solutions; there is no absolute truth; there is no supreme leader; there is no totalitarian solution that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would simply abandon your critical faculties, the world of idiotic bliss can be yours."
Hitchens was a throwback to the Norman Maileresque vision of the writer as macho, brilliant, argumentative [and], critically, hard-living.
The Atlantic's Nicholas Jackson:
He's the only writer that I've ever written a fan letter to.
Vanity Fair's Weiner:
At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.