Christopher Hitchens: ‘You have to choose your future regrets’

Andrew Anthony in The Guardian:

Christopher-Hitchens-006 First, though, there was dinner. We walked to a local restaurant where Hitchens knows the barman and the barman knows what Hitchens drinks, and I asked whether his cancer diagnosis had altered his political outlook at all. He looked mystified at the question, but I explained that he used to say that he woke up angry, full of disgust at the world. Was it still possible to feel so strongly about external enemies when the internal one had taken such malevolent root in his body? “It's the sort of alternative that doesn't present itself to you,” he says. “You don't think, 'Why do I care when I could be thinking about my daunting nemesis?'”

The banality of cancer seems to irk him almost as much as its lethality. Lacking any dialectical substance, it affords few opportunities to escape platitude or avoid cliche. It's a big subject, but it's essentially small talk, and Hitchens's style requires the elevated registers of the epic and the ironic. Anything less is like asking a high-wire artist to perform his act at ground level. Yet his engagement remains unusually engaging, in large part because with him it's never just about politics. His frame of cultural interests is far too large to be squeezed into the straitjacket of dogma and doctrine. He chided me a couple of times for not asking him about his first love, literature. “I wish people would put in a bit more of that because it's also what I think of when I say grand things like defending civilisation.”

More here.