New book 'Unhitched' puts writer Christopher Hitchens on trial(Read article summary)
The book by political activist and writer Richard Seymour was released today.
Controversy always seemed to follow Christopher Hitchens. In its latest iteration, controversy has followed the late polemicist, now the center of controversy in a new book, to his grave.
In âUnhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens,â political activist and author Richard Seymour employs a unique technique to shred Hitchensâs political philosophy to pieces: Seymour puts the late writer on trial.
âIt is written in the spirit of a trial,â Seymour tells the UKâs Guardian. âI do attempt to get a sense of the complexity and gifts of the man, but it is very clearly a prosecution, and you can guess my conclusion.â
In that spirit, âUnhitched,â released today, interrogates Hitchens and builds a case against the man whom Seymour calls an âamanuensisâ of the George W. Bush administration. The book also charts his shift from âcareer-minded socialistâ and âleft-wing firebrandâ to âneoconservative Marxistâ who Seymour describes as âan advocate of Americaâs invasion of Iraq filled with passionate intensity.â
Seymour explores Hitchensâs early days as a socialist with the Labour party and casts doubt on the late authorâs own version of events in his memoir, âHitch 22.â âIâve interviewed a lot of his former comrades. If you read Hitch 22, itâs not an entirely reliable account â what he remembers and what others remember are different,â says Seymour. âHeâs subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, revised things.â
While the book is highly critical of Hitchensâs views on war, politics, and religion, there are characteristics of the late writer Seymour openly admires. âThere are parts in his writing where you read it and glow, itâs so perfectly put,â Seymour says. Still, all in all, âUnhitchedâ is âa denunciation of the changes he underwent in the last 10 years in particular, with Iraq and America the two central themes,â Seymour adds.
âUnhitchedâ grew out of an essay Seymour had written about Hitchens which was published in a collection called âChristopher Hitchens and His Critics.â After Seymour sent Hitchens a copy of that essay, their relationship deteriorated. âWe stopped exchanging emails shortly afterwards,â Seymour recalls. âHe thought of it as an insult and threw a few back.â
Based on that initial essay, radical leftist publisher Verso commissioned âUnhitchedâ about six months after Hitchensâs death in December 2011. In spite of the bad blood between the two, Seymour is hopeful that, were he alive today, Hitchens âmight have had a bit of a laughâ about the new book. âOne thing in his favor is that he was narcissistic but not prickly or vain,â he told the Guardian. âI think he would have thrown an insult or two at me. He described Max Blumenthal as âa young skunk who hasnât learned to piss yetâ and I think I could expect something along those lines.â
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.