A Cruel Winter

December 17, 2011

This has been a vicious winter, taking away too many people whom I admired.

Peter Reading: truculent, challenging poet.

Christopher Logue: who remined us that the Iliad was alive.

Gilbert Adair: Freewheeling polymath, and the only man who could have translated La Disparition so brilliantly.

And now Christopher Hitchens, who loved a fight, and chose God as the biggest and baddest opponent available. I saw him in the flesh only once, at a conference about Kipling, who was one of his heroes. (Hitchens was good at choosing heroes). He gave a talk on Kipling and America that was good, but what I remember most happily was the delay. Some distinguished guests had not turned up, and we had to wait a few minutes before they arrived. Hitchens happily filled the time. “Let’s have some limericks!” he siad, and recited some corkers, especially Robert Conquest’s version of Shakespeare’s seven ages of man:

Seven ages. First puking and muling,

Then very pissed off with your schooling,

Then fucks and then fights,

Then judging chaps’ rights.

Then sitting in slippers. Then drooling.

Terrific.

Update 18th December: And now Vaclav Havel…

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