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Samizdata quote of the day

It is only those who hope to transform human beings who end up by burning them, like the waste product of a failed experiment.

– Christopher Hitchens, as seen in this excellent article about the great man, written by Martin Amis

20 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • David Gillies

    That piece has a remarkably eulogistic feel, set as it is in the present tense. I wonder if Amis knows more about Hitchens’ condition than he lets on?

  • I could only get half way through. Smarting Anus really is a wankshaft. I have seen ladyboy contortionists less up themselves than that onaninistic podcast.

  • bloke in spain

    @ NickM
    “Smarting Anus”

    The plus is that he inflicts it on the Graun’s long suffering readers.

  • “Smarting Anus really is a wankshaft.”

    Actually, his 2002 book, “Koba The Dread”, was very worthwhile.

  • RAB

    Me too Nick. Complete wankfest of… He’s my best mate he is.

    You are on lyrical form sir!

  • Doug Jones

    When I was actively writing and performing standup comedy, I said that comedy workshops help you get in touch with your inner jerk. Hitchens needs no workshops, he lives to be offensive. Mind you, I do agree with him from time to time.

    Amis’ admiration reminds me of the old story that Oscar Wilde once said to James Whistler, “Oh, I wish I’d said that.” Whistler smoothly assured him, “You will, Oscar, you will.” Amis admits right out that he used some of Hitchens’ lines in his own novels. Being a material thief is one of the lowest levels in comedy.

  • Robert Speirs

    Obviously, for Martin Amis, there is no God but Hitch and M. Amis is his prophet. But why is this schoolboy crush interesting and how does it provide any proof that the heretic fool Hitch is worth one’s time? Might just as well read Andrew Sullivan (shudder). I am even more convinced of the appropriateness of my vow not to read any social commentary written after 1936.

  • Valerie

    The Nazi’s hardly had the idea of transforming Jews-They simply wanted to burn them, period. Now the Stalinists are a different matter.

  • “Smarting Anus really is a wankshaft.”

    And thus begins Nick’s next celebrity obsession…

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I haven’t read any Martin Amis novels. I prefer his Dad’s output. Lucky Jim is just in a different class from say, “Dead Babies” (FFS).

    As for Hitch, I fear the end is approaching and that makes me sad. He’s unquestionably one of the good guys. I don’t greatly care for the aggressiveness of his atheism – I write that as an unbeliever myself – but I do admire his willingness to take on conventional wisdom and the lazy thinking of the age, the most recent case of which was his decision to “go off the reservation” and back the overthrow of Saddam’s crime family. He discovered, very late in life, the frisson of being denounced as a neocon baby-eating monster. I know the feeling.

  • I like Hitchens, although I probably disagree with him on great many things – but then I tend to like honest contrarians, and he seems honest to me. As to the article itself, I also found it insufferable.

  • Mart is not a “celeb” – he’s no Kylie for sure. He’s a twat who labours us under the delusion he is smarter than he is. How do I know this? I feel a post coming on! That will explain all. Almost.

    I liked “London Fields” and bits of the “Heavy Water collection” but “Money” is utter toss. I almost like “Other People” but…

    There comes a time in life when you realise that if you don’t understand a book it isn’t because you’re not smart enough and you stop digging for gold because you realise there is just none there. It’s not that you ain’t smart enough to “get it”- it is that there is just nothing to get and that nothing is hidden by smoke and mirrors and stuff Dominic Lawson on BBC2 would nod about and say, “For sure”. That is my relationship with Mart. Certainly since “The Information”.

    Doug, yes! One of my favourite quotes. Martin Amis lifted an entire page for “Other People” almost verbatim from Jorge Luis Borges. It’s about seeing everything exactly but by the same token that meaning not understanding anything – essentially the need to generalise in order to think. That is from “Funes the Memorious”. Amis got away with that blatant rip-off because he knew Borges because he was largely educated in the USA but was primarily publishing in the UK and at that time Borges was not too well known over here.

    And I really mean almost verbatim. From the standard translation (obviously) that is found in “Labyrinths”.

    That is the precise sort of prize cunt he truly is. Amis can spin a line for sure but essentially he is a thief. He claims Nabokov as an influence. He ripped him off too and both owe a lot to the Argentinian.

  • John B

    I have noticed that the British tend to extol eloquence over intelligence.
    It does not bode well.

  • Whilst the Yanks divide integrity over “unity” yielding the square root of irony.

  • James Waterton

    Reactions in this thread seem to be fuelled principally by the author of the article, rather than its content.

  • No James, I read as much of it as I could stand and then commented. As I said Fartin’ Amiss has his moments but also dreadful half hours and this was 14’33” of one of them.

    Let’s call a spade an earth removal tool shall we… Sorry as I am that Christopher Hitchens is very ill this cack-handed hagiography by his bestest pal is cringe-worthy. Those epic put-downs – I’ can hear better down my local on any given Friday night. Moreover I consider myself well-read and educated and all and quite frankly until I got involved in this blogging lark I’d never heard of either Hitchendee or Hitchendum.

    So as far as I couldn’t give a fuck about whatever pearls of pissdom dribble from either of their tripewriters I really, really couldn’t give a two minute scuttling from behind to Lorraine Kelly about what the Happy Shopper Amis thinks of either of them. I called him a twat (did I? I have now) because he is one but also because I read it James – as far as I could. I fucking read it! I mean come-on! It was full of, “I was playing tennis in Cape Cod when Chris said something moderately amusing – you really had to be there…”. Christ almighty! That is the sort of anecdottage that would have me chewing through the fucking napkin-rings at a dinner party and phoning Dignitas.

    I am sorry James. I had to say what I said. I almost always like your stuff but I had to call you on this one.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Whilst the Yanks divide integrity over “unity” yielding the square root of irony.

    Posted by mike at April 27, 2011 02:29 PM

    Not at all. We simply define ‘integrity’ as ‘loyalty’, and ‘loyalty’ as ‘keeping the boss happy.’ Once you understand this, you understand most of American business and all of our politics.

  • I got one thing from the article. It was this:

    “A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realisation that you can’t make old friends.”

    Possibly not true (in the age of Facebook, an “old friend” is increasingly anyone who has actually seen you drunk), but likeable all the same.

    Amis. It’s a long time since I read any of him, but I wouldn’t recommend him to anyone learning to write. I still find myself, even now, sometimes thinking that if you put almost-the-right-word into italics it becomes the right word. Dammit, that one sticks.

  • James Waterton

    Nick: I have no doubt that your tosser barometer is very finely calibrated, so I’ll take your word for it on Martin Amis. I’m not familiar with his work (although am aware that he has literary pedigree), and yes, it was a rather waffley piece that probably breaks five of Orwell’s six rules for good writing.

    Having said that, I liked the article because I thought it contained several interesting insights into its subject. Anyway, the main point of the post was the quote itself, and not the article.

  • Paul Marks

    The Nazis did want to transform people – the “Aryan” population of Germany, Europe, the world.

    Killing Jews was only part of the project. By Progressive breeding and education (nature and nurture) a race of superbeings was to be created.

    The Nazis did not hold the position that getting rid of the Jews (and …..) was all that needed to be done. They, like all Progressives, wanted to create “new people” in a “new world” – via collective power.