“In some ways, the photograph of me with Martin and James is of ‘the late Christopher Hitchens.’ At any rate, it is of someone else, or someone who doesn’t really exist in the same corporeal form. The cells and molecules of my body and brain have replaced themselves and diminished (respectively). The relatively slender young man with an eye to the future has metamorphosed into a rather stout person who is ruefully but resignedly aware that every day represents more and more subtracted from less and less.
As I write these words, I am exactly twice the age of the boy in the frame. The occasional pleasure of advancing years — that of looking back and reflecting upon how far one has come — is swiftly modified by the immediately succeeding thought of how relatively little time there is left to run. I always knew I was born into a losing struggle but I now ‘know’ this in a more objective and more subjective way than I did then. When that shutter clicked in Paris I was working and hoping for the overthrow of capitalism. As I sat down to set this down, having done somewhat better out of capitalism than I had ever expected to do, the financial markets had just crashed on almost the precise day on which I became fifty-nine and one-half years of age, and thus eligible to make use of my Wall Street-managed ‘retirement fund.’ My old Marxism came back to me as I contemplated the ‘dead labor’ that had been hoarded in that account, saw it being squandered in a victory for finance capital over industrial capital, noticed the ancient dichotomy between use value and exchange value, and saw again the victory of those monopolists who ‘make’ money over those who only have the power to earn it…
I now possess another photograph from that same visit to Paris, and it proves to be even more of a Proustian prompter. Taken by Martin Amis, it shows me standing with the ravissant Angela [Gorgas], outside a patisserie that seems to be quite close to the Rue Mouffetard, praise for which appears on the first page of A Moveable Feast. (Or could it be that that box of confections in my hand contains a madeleine?) Again, the person shown is no longer myself. And until a short while ago I would not have been able to notice this, but I now see very clearly what my wife discerns as soon as I show it to her. ‘You look,’ she exclaims, ‘just like your daughter.’ And so I do, or rather, to be fair, so now does she look like me, at least as I was then. The very next observation is again more evident to the observer than it is to me. ‘What you really look,’ she says, after a pause, ‘is Jewish.’ And so in some ways I am — even though the concept of a Jewish ‘look’ makes me bridle a bit — as I shall be explaining. (I shall also be explaining why it was that the boy in the frame did not know of his Jewish provenance.) All this, too, is an intimation of mortality, because nothing reminds one of impending extinction more than the growth of one’s children, for whom room must be made, and who are in fact one’s only hint of even a tincture of a hope of immortality.”
From the memoir Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens.
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