Letters to a Young Contrarian

By Christopher Hitchens | Go to book overview

I

My dear X, So then—you rather tend to flatter and embarrass me, when you inquire my advice as to how a radical or "contrarian" life may be lived. The flattery is in your suggestion that I might be anybody's "model," when almost by definition a single existence cannot furnish any pattern (and, if it is lived in dissent, should not anyway be supposed to be emulated). The embarrassment lies in the very title that you propose. It is a strange thing, but it remains true that our language and culture contain no proper word for your aspiration. The noble title of "dissident" must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement, and it has been consecrated by many exemplary and courageous men and women. "Radical" is a useful and honorable term—in many ways it's my preferred one—but it comes with various health warnings that I'll discuss with you in a later missive. Our remaining expressions— "maverick," "loose cannon," "rebel," "angry young man," "gadfly"—are all slightly affectionate and diminutive and are, perhaps for that reason, somewhat condescending. It can be understood from them that

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Letters to a Young Contrarian
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction xi
  • I 1
  • II 13
  • III 19
  • IV 27
  • V 35
  • VI 41
  • VII 47
  • VIII 53
  • IX 55
  • X 61
  • IX 69
  • XII 79
  • XIII 85
  • XIV 95
  • XV 105
  • XVI 115
  • XVII 123
  • XVIII 127
  • Envoi 139
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