Saturday, July 18, 2009

Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens

in conversation about Antisemitism and Saul Bellow

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

I have long estimated that Hitchens has somewhat mellowed on Israel and Zionism since the time he was friends with Edward Said and could hardly contain himself when given half a chance to vent. He still indulges from time to time but one can see that his heart is not in it. The change of tone and, may I suggest, substance, is quite explicit in this conversation.

When I saw this Hitchens’ honest tribute to Bellow’s talent I found it strangely moving. The last time I read about the two of them mentioned in tandem was in Martin Amis’s book “Experience” where a meeting between the two is described as nothing short of disastrous.

Amis recounts his memory of a visit during the 1970’s to Bellow’s house with Hitchens (the same incident is discussed by Amis and Hitchens in the conversation above). Saul Bellow was Amis’s hero; he loved him with the loyalty of a son. The evening they all spend together is like a runaway train, when Hitchens launched a “cerebral stampede” against Zionism and Israel’s “crimes”.

Amis says in his book: “a silence slowly elongated itself over the dinner table. Christopher, utterly sober but with his eyes lowered, was crushing in his hands an empty packet of Benson & Hedges. The Bellows, too, had their gazes downcast. I sat with my head in my palms, staring at the aftermath of the dinner. . . . My right foot was injured because I had kicked the shins of the Hitch so much with it.”

In the vids here, Hitchens shows great affection, respect and understanding for Saul Bellow. Is it possible that his disllusionment with Edward Said’s politics after 9/11, has eventually wrought forth a different, more sympathetic view of Israel and Zionism?

I am now thinking maybe it's time I began to take an interest in this author. I have a collection of short stories of his, I'll start from there.

We are flying to Tel-Aviv at the end of the month. I'll take it with me for the 13+ hours long Cross Atlantic flight.


At 7:20 PM EDT, Anonymous Migreli said...

Hitchens doesn't deserve credit from you for anything. He has never disowned his views, and many of them were and are deeply insulting and threatening to Israelis and Jews.

Starting with his approving repetition of the perverse insult that the Zionists have shamelessly exploited the Holocaust, through to his association with the hateful libels that Israel Shahak disseminated against the Haredim, and including but not ending with his flattery of David Irving, he has throughout instinctively associated himself with some of the most venomous and evil of the accusations concocted by Israel's enemies. As a Voltairist, he has nothing but contempt for the spiritual nourishment that Judaism provided the Jewish people in adversity. As a faux internationalist, he has no respect for Israel's national achievements, least of all for Tzahal which has empowered the Jews and allowed us to challenge our enemies effectively. It is true that he is against anti-semitism but he is also against anything effective that is done against antisemites.

Amis is a fine and morally balanced fellow. And Bellow was a good Jew who had true loyalty to his people. By contrast, Hitchens has much to atone for before he can be considered for admittance to the club of the Jews and their friends.

At 10:07 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"He has never disowned his views,"

In the conversation with Amis, Hitchens acknowledges his past peeves with Zionism and Judaism. But if you listen, you will find that he speaks with great beauty and sympathy about Bellow's Zionism and how he, Hitchens, has come to understand and even accept it. He has an interesting way of putting it. Israel, he says, is not apart of the Jewish diaspora; it is a part of the diaspora. And he explains what he means with great nuance and feeling. You ought to give the man his due. He has not come to screeching halt and then made a u-turn. He has done a very slow and broad turn into another road. It was inevitable, in the road he took after 9/11.


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