Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Hitchens adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion, preferring to confront death with both eyes open. In this account of his affliction, he describes the torments of illness, discusses its taboos, and explores how disease transforms experience and changes our relationship to the world around us. By turns personal and philosophical, Hitchens embraces the full panoply of human emotions as cancer invades his body and compels him to grapple with the enigma of mortality. – Goodreads
My Rating: 5/5
“to the dumb question “why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: why not?”
I have now read this book twice. Once before going to bed and once again the next morning before writing this “review”. Hitchens had a way with words that allowed none to escape the pages of his work. The impression these words has had on me will last a lifetime.
It is difficult to write about this book as there is no need for a review. I am sure Hitchens endeavoured for the prose to be of his usual high standard, but that really is not the point of this book. These are the thoughts of a man who knows his time on this world is short. The harrowing fascination of what his “final” words might be is what drew me into the book in the first place, but I have been left feeling entirely different.
I feel a sense of loss for a mind and charm and wit as charismatic and enthralling as Hitchens’ was. I feel grateful that he wrote so much so that I can return to his words in every book and article and pamphlet that he ever wrote – as well as the innumerable YouTube clips of his debates and interviews. I also feel like this book is not only an incredible exploration of what it might be like to know that your days are numbered – and all the trials that incurs – but also that it’s existence is necessary. It is in a morbid sense that I am grateful for this book, however much I wish it had been written much later in Hitchen’s life.
My final note on this book will be a positive. The final chapter/part of the book are the notes Hitchens scribbled down for himself to continue writing the book at a later time. In these notes there is one that proves Hitchens’ desire to rebel against “converting” just because he had nothing left to lose, because he believed that there would be something to lose: “If I convert,” he writes, “it’s because it’s better that a believer dies than an atheist does.” Take from that what you will, but I see it as the ultimate act of defiance, and the strength of conviction Hitchens held onto, even in his final days.