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Christopher Hitchens used language with such brio you could forgive what he said Add to ...

When we saw each other last, for an hour in the roof top bar at the Park Hyatt a few years ago, he was as droll and deadpan as ever and drank with a lordly nonchalance that sent out the message: I control it, it does not control me.

Christopher used language with such brio that you could forgive a lot of what he said and did. He regarded liberal moderation with comic disdain and relished combat, the weightier the opponent the better. He was a virtuoso hater and his hatreds were redeemed, when they had to be, by the sheer relish with which they were expressed. He wrote millions of words but some will assure his place with William Hazlitt and George Orwell as one of the enduring essayists of the English language.

He was vain enough to want to endure and the vanity drove him to be serious. What is sure to be read in years to come will be his final essays on his malady, when he turned at last upon himself and his plight the unpitying lucidity and haughty amusement that were his signature.

Michael Ignatieff is a Senior Resident at Massey College, University of Toronto.

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