A discussion of Christopher Hitchens by Stephen Fry and friends

Here’s a podcast of an Intelligence Squared event that took place on November 11, 2011 at the Royal Festival Hall in London: “Stephen Fry and friends on the life, loves, and hates of Christopher Hitchens.” Moderated by Fry, the event includes discussion by Richard Dawkins, Sean Penn, Christopher Buckley, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, and Salman Rushdie.

As the notes say,

Hitchens himself watched the event live online from his bedside in Texas. Novelist Ian McEwan who was at his side sent Fry a text which read “The Rolls Royce mind is still purring”.

The event took place on 11th November 2011, shortly before Hitchens died on 15th December.

It’s well worth 45 minutes of your time.


  1. Posted April 11, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a great Hitchslap that I haven’t seen in any of the “collections”….

    Link to video (52 mins in – should start there automatically)

    It’s from a panel discussion about “Religion and Culture” featuring Christopher Hitchens and two writers on religion, Zachary Karabell and Jonathan Kirsch. At one point Kirsch has this to say:

    “I was reminded of a trip my wife and I took to Paris, we saw the Pantheon, which is a church which was desacrilized after the French Revolution. It is a sterile church. You can go to Notre Dame or Sacré-Cœur which are old medieval churches and they’re very beautiful places. We go into our art museums which we praise as the highest art of the classical world. Their original purpose was what our Bible calls idols.

    “This is our culture – religion is our culture. It provides the stuff of our culture. And to repudiate that — our cultural legacy — is precisely the same as the Taliban going out an dynamiting Buddhist statues in Afghanistan: it’s vandalism!”

    Htichens simply says “Silly point. Extremely silly point.” The moderator (who’s been trying to hush up Hitchens throughout, butts in and ridicules Hitch for being so “inarticulate”.

    Hitch says:

    Sacré-Cœur, by the way, was built-in the late nineteenth century. It’s not medieval at all. It was built to celebrate the defeat of Republicanism in France. It expresses the sectarianism of the French Catholic Church; its historical alignment with the anti-semites, the army and the elite. You can go and worship there if you like, if that’s the kind of culture to you like.

    The so-called moderator tries to stop him and says “Now we’re just bickering.” Kirsch takes the interruption as a chance to try to salvage something:

    Kirsch: Well I do believe Notre dame is a Medieval cathedral.

    Yes, around which Thomas Aquinas once flew, you might be interested to know…He levitated… We have witnesses! After leaving one of his books on the high altar for God to read, and receiving — by channeling — a favorable review, he flew in delight around the knave of Notre Dame. You can check it out. And many people think that’s culture.

    ….Well something got demolished there, but it wasn’t the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur!

    • Posted April 11, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Très bien!


    • bric
      Posted April 11, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      I thought visitors here might enjoy Brian Sewell’s remarks on Sacré-Cœur in his documentary The Naked Pilgrim:

      And here I am, on the hill in Montmartre, on top of which is the church of Sacre Coeur. Most sacred heart of Jesus, it says on the facade of the monstrous building. It contains nothing, it doesn’t have the sacred heart of Jesus, it doesn’t have his foreskin, it doesn’t have his toe nails, it doesn’t have anything of any interest at all. It pretends to be Byzantium, it pretends to be Santa Sofia in Istanbul, it pretends to be any great church of the Byzanti, Romanesque, or whatever period you like, and it is a monster. Idiot tourists in their millions flock up the fenicular, come here in some toy train borrowed from Disneyland, climb the stairs, go in, wander round, wonder why they’re there and come out again, having bought a souvenir or two. That’s the sum total of it. Why do they do it? They do it because it is here. Just look at it. It’s hideous. HIDEOUS! . . . It doesn’t get any better the closer one gets. In fact it has a rather nasty smooth, unworn look about it. It still looks new. Best part of a hundred years old and it still looks new. Though needless to say they are appealing for funds for its restoration. Everywhere you go in this church you will find an offertory box. Money for this. Money for that. Money for the other thing. And money for restoration. I think they should knock it down, indeed I think God should indeed knock it down. It is so hideous. Just imagine if God has any aesthetic sense, what he must have been thinking of this vile church for the last hundred years.

      • Posted April 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Permalink



        • bric
          Posted April 11, 2014 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          Sewell isn’t much kinder about Notre Dame; although it is technically Medieval most of the façade and interior statuary was destroyed during the Revolution: what we see now is largely a Nineteenth Century reconstruction. Sewell suggested chucking buckets of slurry at it to give it a little tone.

      • candide
        Posted April 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        sacré-coeur does have its use though. running up and down the staircases leading to the basilica is a challenging aerobic workout. i make it part of my morning routine when i’m in paris.

      • Posted April 11, 2014 at 8:24 pm | Permalink


        Does Sewell give real reasons for proclaiming it hideous?

        I don’t find it particularly ugly.

  2. Barry Lyons
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I just listened to this. Thank you. Rushdie was a lot of fun. The Catcher in the Wheat is very funny. All You Need is Hysterical Sex is also great! (The Bloomsbury/Forster angle is a new one for me. Did Hitch discuss this in “Hitch 22”? I’ll have to take a look.)

  3. johnnyrodgersmorris
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much. I am such a Christopher Hitchens fan and this is just awesome.

  4. Steve Payne
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I’ll never stop missing that man.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink


  5. Isaac
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I watched the whole thing on youtube as soon as it was available a few years ago. I also watched his entire Vanity Fair memorial in which we were regaled with the most exquisite eulogies written and delivered by people like Olivia Wilde, Rushdie, and Martin Amis (the latter being the most amusing of all).
    It makes me ponder, and indeed envy, the magnificence of being surrounded by such eminent and stimulating company.

    I don’t think I know anybody, literally no one, who can talk with the same confidence, expertise, eloquence, and panache, about the as wide a range of subjects as Hitchens did. He, along with Pavarotti and George Carlin, is one of the 3 people who died on me, way too soon, before I could attend at least one of their performances. And that, I will always regret.

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted April 13, 2014 at 4:37 am | Permalink

      Isaac, agree – and I was just musing what a conversation between Hitch and Carlin would have been like. 😉

  6. Filippo
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Permalink


  7. Larry Esser
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Yes, it really was a well-spent 45 minutes! Thoroughly enjoyable, thanks for sharing it.

  8. Dawn Oz
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    I paid to watch it at the time, and may avail myself of it again. It was exciting to be in Australia, whilst Stephen in London was interacting with Hitch in the US. It’s his birthday on 13th April.

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