The memories of friends and loved ones who die become unchained and malleable with their absence. At least this was the case prior to photographs, film, then video, then digital video. You may have thousands of hours of audio-visual material of a person after they have gone. These significant and even interactive touchstones keep our memories peculiarly fresh. Watching videos of someone close after their death is truly discombobulating.
I suspect that in the years to come, there may well develop a new psychological condition around this strange and haunting place. To some extent we’ve been experiencing this mental place with celebrity deaths for years. People we’ve become so familiar with over the years, that they ‘seem’ to be friends – yet the TV series rolls on, the books are reprinted and the interviews are replayed.
We, Kirsty and I, never knew Christopher Hitchens the man, and we haven’t even read all of his work – just three books between us, a dozen or so essays and of course we’ve seen numerous videos of him online. So whilst we can’t say that we loved him like a close friend or relative, losing him still feels akin to that type of loss. His presence in our lives to some extent won’t change, due to the thousands of hours of video and twice as many lines of his writing but his commentary on what is happening here and now will be missing; his crucial absence in debate will be the mammoth in the room; and there will be no new book to shake the editors of news headlines out of their complacency.
He made you think. Really think. In a world experiencing as rapid change as ours, this really could not be more important. He, and others like him: Carl Sagan, Bertrand Russell, David Attenborough, AC Grayling, were the intellectual motivation behind our setting up Embiggen Books in the first place, which has been the biggest commitment and most positive thing we, as a couple or as individuals, after having our baby, have ever done. A business set up to celebrate and promote big ideas and critical thinking, something that Hitch himself embodied.
Now, we were going to have a little gathering with others who enjoyed his work at The Moat, but unfortunately the timing, like death often is, is bad for this fledgling small business. So we are left only with these brief words of respect.
Links to 3 others who wrote about him who did know him.
And of course a video of the man himself: