Book review: And Yet... Essays by Christopher Hitchens

February 18, 2016
Atlantic, £20 For those who grew up gorging on the rich rhetoric of Christopher Hitchens, this posthumously published collection of essays is a final treat. All previously published elsewhere between 1997 and 2012, the essays are, as ever, sharp and erudite—and at times a reminder of what Hitchens got wrong, as well as the things he got right. Many of the essays hold their relevance, at least for now. A 2006 essay from Vanity Fair discusses widespread surveillance of citizens of the United States by its own National Security Agency, several years before anyone had heard the name Edward Snowden; while two are scathing analyses of Hillary Clinton’s credentials for President.

Others tackle themes that are more timeless, such as immigration and identity, patriotism, and divisiveness in politics (he calls for more, not less).

There are those, too, in which he addresses the Iraq War, his support for which came to taint his later years in the eyes of many of his followers.

As one would expect of a Hitchens collection, the essays are wide-ranging: political commentary, book reviews, cultural musings, travelogues. But there is little to connect them other than their author, and the chronological organisation means they sometimes jump jarringly between subjects. Three wonderful and unlikely essays about Hitchens’s year-long attempt at a makeover, including an extended description of having a male bikini wax, precede a defence of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch ex-politician, Somali refugee and opponent of radical Islam.

Nonetheless, most are a pleasure to read, and for fans of Hitchens the collection will have a treasured place on the bedside table—ready to dip into for a taste now and then.