During the US book tour for his memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens collapsed in his New York hotel room to excoriating pain in his chest and thorax. As he would later write in the first of a series of deeply moving Vanity Fair pieces, he was being deported 'from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.' Until his death in 2011 he underwent the brutal gamut of modern cancer treatment, enduring catastrophic levels of suffering and eventually losing his voice.
Mortality is the most meditative piece of writing Hitchens has ever produced; at once an unsparingly honest account of the ravages of his disease, an examination of cancer bathroom etiquette, and the coda to a lifetime of fierce debate and peerless prose. In this eloquent confrontation of mortality, Hitchens returns a human face to a disease that has become a contemporary cipher of suffering.
Diagnosed with the esophageal cancer to which he eventually succumbed in December 2011, cultural critic Hitchens found himself a finalist in the race of life, and in his typically unflinching and bold manner, he candidly shares his thoughts about his suffering, the etiquette of illness and wellness, and religion in this stark and powerful memoir. Commenting on the persistent metaphor of battle that doctors and friends use to describe his life with cancer (most of this book was published in Vanity Fair), Hitchens mightily challenges this image, for "when you sit in a room... and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it into your arm, and you either read or don't read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier is the very last one that will occur to you." As a result of his various treatments, Hitchens begins to lose his voice, which, given his life as public gadfly through writing and speeches, devastates him. "What do I hope for? If not a cure, then a remission. And what do I want back? In the most beautiful apposition of two of the simplest words in our language: the freedom of speech." Hitchens's powerful voice compels us to consider carefully the small measures by which we live every day and to cherish them.