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Christopher Hitchens was a controversial, thought-provoking British-American writer who covered a range of serious topics, including art and atheism.
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Born on April 13, 1949, in Portsmouth, England, Christopher Hitchens wrote for a variety of English magazines before moving to the United States in 1981. Hitchens established himself as one of the leading intellectual writers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, willing to offend his readership with his controversial positions on matters such as religion, art, politics, war and literature. He died in Houston, Texas, on December 15, 2011.
Christopher Hitchens was born on April 13, 1949, in Portsmouth, England. His father, Eric Hitchens, was a commander in the British Royal Navy, which required the family to travel frequently. (Hitchens's brother was born in Malta in 1951.) While his father argued that the family couldn't afford it, his mother, Yvonne, insisted on sending young Hitchens to private school, saying, "If there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it." And so, at age 8, Hitchens was sent off, ending up later on at the Leys School in Cambridge.
In 1967, he began attending Balliol College in Oxford, where he joined a sect of Trotskyites called the "International Socialists." Although he was a staunch member of the political left, Hitchens made connections across the political spectrum.
In 1970, Hitchens graduated from Balliol with a bachelor's degree in philosophy, politics and economics and moved to London, where he wrote for the Times Higher Education Supplement. By 1973, Hitchens moved on to the left-wing weekly New Statesman, where he became acquainted with writer Martin Amis.
Tragedy struck that same year, when Hitchens's mother committed suicide in a pact with her lover in an Athens, Greece hotel room. She left a note behind, addressed to Hitchens, essentially saying that one day he'd understand. When Amis wrote Hitchens a sympathetic note later on about the incident, it sparked a deep, lifelong friendship between the two writers. Hitchens wrote for the Evening Standard and the Daily Express, before becoming the New Statesman's foreign editor in 1979. He held the position until he moved to New York City in 1981.
A year after moving to New York, Hitchens relocated to Washington, D.C., where he wrote a column called "Minority Report" for The Nation. During this period, he also wrote the books Cyprus (1984) and The Elgin Marbles: Should They Be Returned to Greece? (1987). Also in 1987, his father died of esophageal cancer, the same cancer that would kill Christopher Hitchens 24 years later.
In 1989, Hitchens broke with the left after death threats were made against his friend Salman Rushdie with the publication of The Satanic Verses. Hitchens defended Rushdie, citing his right to freedom of expression, but he was surprised that others from the left failed to do so and openly denounced them. This event seemed to mark the point when Hitchens would be perceived not merely as a leftist but also as someone who would lambast either side for perceived transgressions.
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