Of Alex Miller and Christopher Hitchens

About the Author

Alex Miller is one of Australia’s best loved writers. He is twice winner of the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s premier literary prize, the first occasion in 1993 for The Ancestor Game, and again in 2003 for Journey to the Stone Country.

Conditions of Faith, his fifth novel, was published in 2000 and won the Christina Stead Prize for fiction in the 2001 NSW Premiers Literary Awards. It was also nominated for the Dublin IMPAC International Literature Award, shortlisted for the Colin Roderick Award in 2000, the Age Book of the Year Award and the Miles Franklin Award in 2001.

He is also an overall winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, for The Ancestor Game, in 1993.

Miller’s seventh novel, Prochownik’s Dream, was published in 2005. Landscape of Farewell, published in 2008, was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the Miles Franklin Award and won the Annual Foreign Novels 21st Century Award from the People’s Literature Publishing House in China.

Also in 2008, Alex Miller was awarded the Manning Clark Cultural Award for an outstanding contribution to the quality of Australian cultural life. In 2009, Alex Miller was named as a finalist for the prestigious Melbourne Prize for Literature and his most recent novel, Lovesong, was published in November 2009 to great critical acclaim. In 2012 he won the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Literature.
I have to find out, whether I can get one of his books in large print!

2 Responses to “Of Alex Miller and Christopher Hitchens”

  1. auntyuta Says:
    This blog of yours, Helvi, reminds me that I still have to downsize as far as books are concerned. Also a lot of boxes are waiting to be sorted with collected bits and pieces, as for instance letters and photos from way, way back! 🙂

    Liked by you

    • auntyuta Says:
      Now, more than three years later, I am still in the process of throwing out books, and I still need to decide, what from the above mentioned boxes needs to be saved, so that some of my descendants maybe can find out a few things about my long life?

      With very bad eyesight, and the need for downsizing due to very old age, I soon won’t have any need for book shelves any more! 🙂

      Whatever my children would like to have for themselves to keep, they should take it already now, if I do not have any use for it anymore.

Oosterman Treats Blog

 

Helvi Oosterman

I’m missing my books, they are physically here, in milk crates and sturdy boxes, stacked high in the garage of my temporary dwelling, but I can’t get to them without disturbing the equilibrium of our possessions waiting to be transported to our permanent abode in three months time.

It’s not only the books I’m missing but also the simple white built-in book cases, we had on the farm. One wall in the family room was ‘sacrificed’ to our old and most faithful friends, books. The bedroom shelves were a home for books in process, not to be written but to be read.

This small townhouse is easy to heat, we have nice neighbours, the living room is cosy and sunny, enough rooms to house the grandsons during school holidays, a garden for Milo, and not too far from shops, coffee lounges and libraries. This will do for…

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5 thoughts on “Of Alex Miller and Christopher Hitchens

  1. This is what I found about Christopher Hitchens:

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/dec/16/christopher-hitchens-obituary

    Christopher Hitchens obituary
    Maverick, polemical journalist whose career was a rollercoaster of love and loathing
    Christopher Hitchens
    Christopher Hitchens – ‘one of the greatest conversationalists of our age’. Photograph: Catherine Karnow/Corbis
    Peter Wilby
    Fri 16 Dec 2011 17.11 AEDT
    For most of his career, Christopher Hitchens, who has died of oesophageal cancer aged 62, was the left’s biggest journalistic star, writing and broadcasting with wit, style and originality in a period when such qualities were in short supply among those of similar political persuasion. Nobody else spoke with such confidence and passion for what Americans called “liberalism” and Hitchens (regarding “liberal” as too “evasive”) called “socialism”. . . . ..

  2. Hitch-22: A Memoir – Christopher Hitchens in conversation with Austin Dacey, June 13, 2010

    David Snider
    During the brief speaking tour to promote his memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens spoke with Austin Dacey before a hometown crowd in Washington, DC at the Historic Sixth & I Synagogue on June 13, 2010. His sudden illness was announced shortly afterwards.

    Christopher Hitchens is my favorite writer. Recording this video was a great opportunity to meet my hero, who didn’t disappoint. His work meant a great deal to me, and losing him was very terrible. I kept this video to myself for ten years to hang onto some piece of him, but I’m now happy to share this recording with everyone.

    The event was held on an unusually humid and hot day, and the inadequate air conditioning and stage lights added to the speaker’s discomfort. Hitchens looks like he’s baking but everyone in there was moderately uncomfortable. I think he held up well in the spotlight, with the private knowledge that he was facing a serious crisis. The last few minutes are actually my favorite moments, where he warmly greets his book’s buyers with kind glances and smiles. Long Live Christopher Hitchens!

    Apr 20, 2020

  3. ‘The Cypriot terrorist’ – At least that was what her former husband Christopher Hitchens called her.
    https://cyprus-mail.com/2013/05/27/the-cypriot-terrorist/
    Hitchens was married, first, to Eleni Meleagrou, a Greek Cypriot, and then, after they divorced, to Carol Blue, an American screenwriter.
    https://www.google.com/search?q=christopher+hitchens+children&rlz=1C1CHZN_enAU956AU956&oq=cgrustopher+hitchens&aqs=chrome.6.69i57j46i13i433j0i13l7.31920j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    Eleni Meleagrou, a Greek Cypriot
    Does she still feel roots, after 40 years of being away? “Yes I do,” she replies instantly. “I very much feel part of Cyprus, I always have done”. Her children speak Cypriot, visit every year, and make a point of bringing their partners. She herself is too combustible to be sentimental – she got in a fight the other day with a young man driving his sports car onto the pavement, and whips out a photo she took on her mobile to show to the cops – but she is, I suspect, intensely loyal as a person, and attachments die hard. After all, she muses, “I married a guy who I met here in Cyprus – and, in a way, that was what we had. Otherwise I would never have met him. And he spent a lot of time talking and writing about Cyprus in the first years, it was part of my relationship with him. He loved Cyprus as well, in his way – and he loved the idea of having a Cypriot family, which was a very un-English experience for him”.

    ‘He’, of course, was Hitchens, who wrote a book on Cyprus (Hostage to History) in 1984 – seven years after he and Eleni met on her uncle’s verandah, her uncle being former EDEK MP Takis Hadjidemetriou. Hitchens was here for a conference; “I’d heard about him, and I was interested”. He was just a hack in those days, “but Christopher had it in him, none of [what came later] is a surprise. He was very ambitious, very intelligent, very hard-working and very knowledgeable. An exceptional guy. That’s why I fell in love with him, and had to be with him”. And what did he see in her? Well, she shrugs, being a foreigner was undoubtedly exotic: “He wasn’t someone to settle with some English…” – long pause – “girl, you know? And he liked my argumentativeness, he used to refer to me as ‘the Cypriot terrorist’ in those days. And we understood each other… We had a very good marriage. This is what I keep telling everyone, we had a very good marriage of eight years or so – which unravelled in the last year for all sorts of reasons, but it wasn’t a marriage throughout which we were quarrelling. We had a good marriage, and that is why we had a good divorce”.

    ‘All sorts of reasons’ is a bit diplomatic; in fact the marriage ended because Hitchens fell in love with another woman, even as his wife was pregnant with Sophia (leading to a fraught relationship with his daughter in later years). Hitchens-haters invariably use this betrayal and desertion against him – “but you know what?” says Eleni, “I don’t think they know what they’re talking about, basically. I mean yes, I was pregnant. [But] I could’ve held him back. I threw him out when he told me he was in love with someone else, I literally threw him out. I could’ve carried on and cried and so on, but I had too much pride”. Easy for outsiders to pass judgment, she adds, but “it takes two to get to that point”.

    Some would say that’s a bit too generous – then again, I can think of reasons why Eleni might want to be magnanimous. Firstly, of course, Hitchens is no longer with us (he died of cancer in 2011). Secondly, those years with him – her late 20s and early 30s, first in London then Washington – must’ve been exciting, a whirl of glitzy shindigs and famous faces. Martin Amis (Hitchens’ closest friend) was their best man; “Oh, Martin can be hilarious,” she replies when I ask what he’s like, which admittedly isn’t quite the same as ‘friendly’ or ‘empathetic’ (I note her throwaway comment on Ian McEwan, another famous writer who was part of the gang: “He’s a lovely guy, and you can’t say that about any of the others!”) – but it’s still a golden memory to cling to as she sits in Nicosia, perusing the New Yorker and mulling over the disappointment of ‘Meleagrou vs. Turkey’.

    Yet she doesn’t seem disappointed; not at all, in fact. I could listen to the tape of our interview, but it can’t evoke the actual experience of talking to Eleni – the way she sits on a swivel chair and happily wheels herself around the room as she talks, her joie de vivre and flashes of temper as she lists all the “irritating or childish or hopeless” things about Cyprus. And besides, there’s a third reason why she’d want to be magnanimous about Christopher Hitchens: she loved the man. “One could never – or at least I could never stay angry with Christopher for very long,” she muses fondly. Even when he wrote his autobiography (Hitch-22) and devoted a grand total of eight words to her – and even those in parentheses – she eventually forgave him. “He had such charm,” she smiles. “And he had a desire to please, which was almost as huge as his desire to argue”.

    They argued a lot; that was part of the mutual attraction (“He’d never admit defeat. But he was also prepared to sit up all night, if need be, to do it”). Eleni Meleagrou still argues now, whether with drivers who park on the pavement or oblivious Greek Cypriots who’ve sunk into inertia and complacency – “You can’t remain stuck in the same old slogans. You can’t. You lose if you do” – just like she once argued for Marxism-Leninism with a touch of Maoism, back in her fiery youth. Yet the final impression I get isn’t of an angry or embittered person but a clannish, emotional person, one who values friends and the deep, serene bonds of home and family.

    Let’s go back to her darkest time: Washington DC in the early 90s, newly divorced, small kids, no real job (this was when she decided to go to law school). Things were tough – yet they also inspired her. “The kids and I became a family,” she recalls with a kind of tender pride. “And we were a happy family. It worked. I was happy with my kids, I really was.
    “I remember one day – because yeah, I’m a highly-strung, quite neurotic person, and I have all kinds of worries and anxieties, but I remember one day I was walking on the Mall in Washington – a wonderful open space, with monuments – and pushing a stroller with Sophia in it, and Alexandros next to it. And the weather was brilliant – and I was young! And right then I thought: ‘I am truly happy. This is a real moment of happiness. And I’ll hang on to this and I’ll remember it, because this makes me happy’.” No wonder she looks so un-lawyerly.

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