Throat cancer blow for Christopher Hitchens
Author is forced to cut short his book tour for ‘Hitch-22’ memoir
THE ENGLISH writer and polemicist Christopher Hitchens has been forced to cut short his current book tour, to publicise his memoir Hitch-22, after being diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.
"I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my oesophagus," he says in a statement issued by his American publisher, Twelve.
He then adds in a very 'Hitch' way: "This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice."
The 61-year-old, who has been based for many years in Washington DC, where he enjoys dual nationality, was a heavy cigarette smoker for many years.
In Hitch-22, he quotes from his friend Martin Amis's novel Money to describe his mother Yvonne's smoking, and the same line might well have been used of his own habit:
"I lit another cigarette," says John Self in Money, adding: "Unless I specifically inform you to the contrary, I am always lighting another cigarette."
Hitchens refers in his memoir to having abandoned the smoking habit after three decades. But in an interview with the Guardian last month, Decca Aitkenhead described him as as needing two packets to fortify himself before lunch. (He also says in his book that, having once "outperformed all but the most hardened imbibers", he now drinks "relatively carefully" - a claim not evidenced by the sales of Johnnie Walker Black Label when Hitchens is in town.)
Readers of Hitch-22 will be struck by the fact that his naval officer father - always referred to as 'The Commander' - died at 78 from a heart attack, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.
However, the year was 1987 and there have been considerable medical advances in the interim. With the cancer spotted at the relatively tender age of 61, Hitchens's friends have high hopes he will be back on tour soon.
As he writes in Hitch-22, Hitchens's public appearances, whether in lectures halls or at book signings, give him the chance to correct the image some members of the public gather of him from his sharp writing and contrary views.
Quite often, he says, "motherly-looking ladies" will come up to him at these events and say: "It's so nice to meet you in person: I had the impression that you were so angry and maybe unhappy."
'Hitch-22' is published in Britain by Atlantic Books ·
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