Christopher Hitchens passed away at the age of 62.
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Christopher Hitchens is dead.
The prolific journalist, well-known public intellectual and noted contrarian, who is perhaps most famous in the eyes of many Americans for his best-selling exegesis against religion, passed away Thursday at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He was 62.
Hitchens, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and The Atlantic, and a regular columnist at Slate, discovered in June 2010 that he had Stage 4 esophageal cancer, a diagnosis that forced the iconoclast to curtail what had once been a full schedule of public appearances but that did little to slow his prodigious output of essays, columns and book reviews up until the very end.
At a rare public appearance in his final months, Hitchens conceded that his time was running short, but said that he had no plans to give up his life's work in the face of his deteriorating health. "I'm not going to quit until I absolutely have to," he said then, drawing an ovation from the crowd.
Hitchens lived up to that promise, authoring articles for a number of publications during his final weeks on everything from American politics to his own mortality. Writing for Vanity Fair in a piece that was published only days before he died, Hitchens reaffirmed that he hoped to be fully conscious and awake as he passed away, "in order to 'do' death in the active and not the passive sense," much as he had previously explained to his readers was his wish even before he learned of his cancer and prognosis.
"I do, still, try to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span," he wrote.
Born in Portsmouth, England, in 1949, Hitchens studied at Oxford before launching his journalism career in the 1970s with the magazines International Socialism and the New Statesman. In the early 1980s, he emigrated to the United States, where he was a regular columnist at The Nation for two decades before parting ways with the liberal magazine after proudly disagreeing with its editors about the Iraq war.
Hitchens won the National Magazine Award for commentary in 2007, the same year that he became an American citizen on his 58th birthday. Foreign Policy named him to its list of the top 100 public intellectuals the following year, and Forbes magazine labeled him one of the 25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media in 2009, a distinction that took some by surprise given Hitchens's vocal support of George W. Bush's war on terror.
He was a frequent guest on news programs and at public debates, and rarely passed up the opportunity to defend his positions when given the opportunity to do so. He was the author of nearly 20 books, including God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Hitch-22: A Memoir, and Arguably, a collection of his more recent essays that was published earlier this year.
Hitchens remained steadfast in his criticism of religion even in the face of his grim prognosis. In an August 2010 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, his colleague at The Atlantic, Hitchens made it known that even if he were to somehow recant his devout atheism on his deathbed, any apparent conversion would be a hollow gesture. "The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain," he said. "I can't guarantee that such an entity wouldn't make such a ridiculous remark. But no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a ridiculous remark."