Christopher Hitchens, author, journalist, literary critic, atheist, et al, is struggling with the painful indignities and violent assaults of oesophageal cancer. In this essay in Vanity Fair, he writes eloquently about his latest great loss – the loss of his voice.
Agree or disagree with Hitchens, and I for one have done both more times than I can count, this essay moved me to tears. As someone who is in remission, it doesn’t take much to make me weep about this particular topic, however Hitchens’s meditation on living his dying avoids sentimentality and cuts right to the bone.
Hitchens quotes the Leonard Cohen lines:
If it be your will,
That I speak no more:
And my voice be still,
As it was before …
I don’t know who or what Hitchens is addressing when he embraces this poignant and powerful song of surrender, and I don’t know who I’m addressing when I let Cohen’s lines speak for me and in me. But today they both reminded me of Wallace Stevens’ poem, Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction:From this the poem springs: That we live in a place that is not our own And much more, Not ourselves.
And for that, I thank them all.