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Even people who can’t bloody stand Christopher Hitchens have sympathy for the man after his recent diagnosis with cancer. The British God Is Not Great author has written a harrowing piece (titled “Topic of Cancer”) for Vanity Fair’s September issue about his confrontation with the disease, and the essay has been lauded as a fine piece of writing. Still, you’re not Christopher Hitchens unless you’re pissing someone off, and that’s exactly what he’s done to The Daily Telegraph‘s Damian Thompson, who takes issues with this short passage from Hitchens’ essay:

I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? To read – if not indeed write – the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger?

Ratzinger is better known as Pope Benedict XVI, and he’s no stranger to controversy himself. Mr. Thompson, “a journalist specializing in religion,” responds to Hitchens’ firing shot, writing, “This should scarcely need saying, but Pope Benedict XVI is not a criminal: neither Hitchens nor anyone else has produced evidence that he covered up the crimes of pedophile priests.” He ends with the following passage:

So this is a nasty piece of character assassination, sadly typical of a brilliant journalist who, once he’s made up his mind about somebody, shuts out information that might force him to tone down the savagery of his rhetoric. And it’s not rendered any less nasty by the fact that “Hitch” is – by his own account – probably dying. But it does make the whole thing desperately sad.

Is Mr. Thompson letting this one dig overshadow what is a very thoughtful piece on death? I don’t dig a lot about Mr. Hitchens – but the man can write. By the way, check out this compilation of some great Hitchens TV appearances from over the years. You can see what he means when he says he “burned the candle at both ends”:

by Kevin Wicks

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Filed Under: Christopher Hitchens
By Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks is the founding editor of Anglophenia.