Monday, 10 September 2012

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

Lowdown: Christopher Hitchens looks death in the eye.
The subject matter of Christopher Hitchens’ last book, Mortality, is him dealing with the cancer that brought his life to an end less than a year ago and made this his last book ever. In the short span of less than a thousand Kindle units we’re taken across from when Hitchens first learns of the devil inside to the last jots he left just before death came along.
There are many reasons why the end result, Mortality, is a great book. First there’s the subject matter: how often are we in the Western world allowed to discuss death in the open, particularly our own deaths? I don’t know about you, but I can’t avoid noticing active censorship on this subject matter wherever I go. Mortality does the opposite: it looks our nemesis in the eye.
Moving along, Hitchens reviews his life with cancer. He discusses how society wants individuals to battle cancer instead of the more accurate reflection that it is the cancer that is fighting the patient. He discusses how the people around him deal with his sickness, including the prayers said on his behalf. And he is very candid about the treatments he has been receiving, leading him to mock the claim that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
All of these discussions come out as pure poetry in motion to read. I have noted Hitchens’ eloquent use of the English language before, but I would argue he peaked with Mortality; it is such a beautiful book to read, so well argued I could not fail to notice I was deliberately slowing down my reading to savour every paragraph.
Thus I argue Mortality is the perfect read. It’s not just that it is relevant and concise; it is a book that manages to turn death into a pleasure. A writer managing such a feat deserves the highest of accolades. I will greatly miss you, Christopher Hitchens; I already am.
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars. A must read for anyone ever going to die.


Uri said...

It sounds very interesting. But 12.99 USD seems a bit steep.

Moshe Reuveni said...

In Hitch 22, Hitchens was saying how the GFC lost him all his retirement savings. I wouldn't exclude Mortality acting as some sort of a pension fund.
More to the point, consider the use of VPN: Mortality is sold for Australian readers at $10 (and was available long before it was for Americans). Buy enough books and you'll get your return on investment!
Alternatively, I can try buying the book to you as a gift. I could do much worse.