Christopher Hitchens Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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Christopher Hitchens 1949-

(Full name Christopher Eric Hitchens) English journalist, essayist, and nonfiction writer.

The following entry presents an overview of Hitchens's career through 2001.

A contentious journalist, editorial columnist, and media figure, Hitchens has attracted both respect and contempt for his scathing assaults on an array of contemporary political subjects and personalities. Unabashedly aligned with the ideology of the far Left, Hitchens is noted for the sharp wit and wicked humor of his polemical writings, as well as his idiosyncratic perspective, which is largely unburdened by any single political or professional loyalty. He has written incisively about the politics of Central America and the Middle East, as well what he characterizes as the “special relationship” between England and the United States. Hitchens disdains the ignorance of political leaders and the media in his writings, and has made a reputation by exposing what he sees as the hypocrisy and moral shortcomings of prominent figures, notably U.S. President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Mother Teresa. A popular guest on television programs and at public debates, Hitchens is well known for his “Minority Report” column in The Nation and his several collections of essays, book reviews, and editorials.

Biographical Information

Born in Portsmouth, England, Hitchens is the eldest of two sons born to Eric Ernest Hitchens, a career naval officer, and Yvonne Hickman. Hitchens's younger brother, Peter, is a noted right-wing critic and author, who has entered into several public debates with his older brother. The Hitchens family moved frequently due to their father's military duties. Though an avowed atheist, Hitchens was raised as a Christian and attended a Methodist private school in Cambridge. He was surprised to learn in the late 1980s of his maternal Jewish ancestry, which his mother had concealed from the family. In 1970 Hitchens graduated from Balliol College at Oxford University with honors in philosophy, politics, and economics. While at Oxford, he joined the International Socialist Party and was an active participant in the anti-war movement against American involvement in Vietnam. After graduating, he worked as the social science correspondent for the Times Higher Education Supplement in London. From 1973 to 1981, and since 1987, Hitchens has served as a staff writer for the New Statesman. His first book, Callaghan (1976), a study of British Labour leader James Callaghan, was a collaborative effort with Peter Kellner, and his second book, Inequalities in Zimbabwe (1981), was co-authored with David Stephens. In 1980 Hitchens relocated to the United States, and in 1981 he began writing the “Minority Report” column for The Nation. He has since interspersed book writing with work as a journalist for various periodicals in both England and the United States. In 1982, he began to contribute regular columns to the Spectator and the Times Literary Supplement, and later Vanity Fair. Hitchens has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Pittsburgh, and the New School for Social Research (now New School University) in New York City. He received the American Friends of Cyprus annual award in 1985 for Cyprus (1984), and the Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction in 1991. During the 1998 scandal involving U.S. President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Hitchens emerged as a unexpected witness, providing testimony to the House impeachment managers that proved damaging to the Clinton defense. Hitchens has married twice, first to Eleni Meleagrou, a press officer, and then to writer Carol Blue. He has three children and resides in Washington, D.C.

Major Works

Hitchens's shrewd analysis of controversial political subjects is evident in Cyprus, in which he chronicles twenty years of British, U.S., Greek, and Turkish intervention in Cyprus' internal affairs. Hitchens contends that the division of Cyprus in 1974 was...

(The entire section is 1,681 words.)