The Trial of Christopher Hitchens
By Richard Seymour
(Verso, Paperback, 9781844679904, 160pp.)
Publication Date: January 16, 2013
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Irascible and forthright, Christopher Hitchens stood out as a man determined to do just that. In his younger years, a career-minded socialist, he emerged from the smoke of 9/11 a neoconservative “Marxist,” an advocate of America’s invasion of Iraq filled with passionate intensity. Throughout his life, he played the role of universal gadfly, whose commitment to the truth transcended the party line as well as received wisdom. But how much of this was imposture? In this highly critical study, Richard Seymour casts a cold eye over the career of the “Hitch” to uncover an intellectual trajectory determined by expediency and a fetish for power.
As an orator and writer, Hitchens offered something unique and highly marketable. But for all his professed individualism, he remains a recognizable historical type—the apostate leftist. Unhitched presents a rewarding and entertaining case study, one that is also a cautionary tale for our times.
Richard Seymour lives, works and writes in London. He runs the Lenin’s Tomb website, which comments on the War on Terror, Islamophobia and neoliberalism.
“Clever, incisive ... Unhitched offers a more thorough and in-depth discrediting of Hitchens than anything previously published. And in doing so, Seymour has made an important contribution to understanding the political role of the intellectual celebrity in our time.” —In These Times
“Richard Seymour’s Unhitched, a slim and scathing denunciation of turncoat scoundrel Christopher Hitchens, is a thoroughly satisfying and politically important book by one of the few remaining great radical left journalists.” —Jordy Cummings, Rabble
“Seymour reveals Hitchens as having had a lifelong admiration both for the United States and for empires as civilizing forces.” —Washington Post Book World
“Richard Seymour employs a unique technique to shred Hitchens’s political philosophy to pieces: Seymour puts the late writer on trial.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“In Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens, we again find Seymour’s customary clarity, rigor, and intelligence as he offers a brilliant analysis of the shifting landscape of Hitchens’ path from socialist internationalist to Liberal Hawk. It is a work brimming with hot anecdotes and tangy tidbits as Seymour goes at it mano a mano with “The Great Contrarian,” recapitulating the menu of contradictions that comprise the life of this practiced ironist.” —Alan Wald, Against the Current
“Well-argued ... I think Seymour rather pitied Hitchens, as the married man pities the philanderer.” —Keith Miller, Daily Telegraph
“He is not worthy of changing Christopher Hitchens’s printer cartridge.” —Stephen Robinson, The Times
“A nasty piece of work ... (Full disclosure: Hitchens was a friend, mentor, and neighbor of mine.)” —James Kirchick, Newsweek
“Seymour’s book offers an exciting counterbalance to the often uncritical praise that has flowed heavily since Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June 2010.” —Truthdig
“Seymour is certainly master of the records; he knows the work closely and cites it scrupulously. But his headlong, foam-flecked interpretation, voiced in a manner recklessly close to Hitchens’s own but without the grace, the wit, the tearing high spirits and the faultless ear for the fall of a cadence of his great original, becomes merely tedious, repetitive and unconvincing ... This little book is 134 pages long. The author shouldn’t have done it. It is paltry and it is trivially abusive. Its subject was as eloquent, cultivated, exuberant, unstoppable, sheerly gigantic a journalist as British or American politics has known since George Orwell.” —Fred Inglis, Independent
“Caustic demolition of Hitchens—not dissimilar to Hitch’s way with Mother Teresa or the Clintons.” —The Big Issue In The North