I’ve spent many hours with Christopher Hitchen’s memoir Hitch-22 over the past several days. It’s fascinating because, as Hitchens tells it, he was present for virtually every major historical event of the second-half of the 20th century, especially any rebellions in 3rd World Countries, protests against human rights abuses or leftist political movements. He knows everyone and has an opinion about everything. Additionally, he is quite literarily minded and so makes allusions to many authors — W.H. Auden, Martin Amis, Gore Vidal, u.s.w, — whom I mean to look up later. Here are some inane and trivial bits and pieces that have stuck with me from the (quite long) book:
— During the mass Jewish emigration to Israel following the nation’s creation in 1948, theologian-philosopher Martin Buber moved into the home in old Jerusalem from which Edward Said’s family had been forcibly evicted.
— Lauren Bacall is cousins with Shimon Peres
— The Hebrew (Yiddish?) word for heretic is apikoros and it comes from the word Epicurean. Hitchens calls this an example of the persistent tension between Athens and Jerusalem in Western (and Near Eastern) intellectual life.
— While under fatwa from the Ayatollah Khomeini for The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie eventually capitulated and wrote an essay entitled “Why I Have Embraced Islam.” He later disavowed this forced shahada and re-apostated.
— There seems to be have been quite a bit of casual homosexuality (among Hitchen’s set at least) in English private schools and universities in the 1950s and 60s.
— Saddam Hussein once had a Koran produced written entirely in his own blood.
— Hitchens guessed the identity of Deep Throat all the way back in the 80’s (Isn’t that cool?)
— Hitchens’ favorite musicians are Bach and Bob Dylan