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09/02/2010 04:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Christopher Hitchens: If God Sent Me This Cancer He Has A 'Sadly Depleted Arsenal'

When I described the tumor in my esophagus as a "blind, emotionless alien," I suppose that even I couldn't help awarding it some of the qualities of a living thing. This at least I know to be a mistake: an instance of the "pathetic fallacy" (angry cloud, proud mountain, presumptuous little Beaujolais) by which we ascribe animate qualities to inanimate phenomena. To exist, a cancer needs a living organism, but it cannot ever become a living organism. Its whole malice--there I go again--lies in the fact that the "best" it can do is to die with its host. Either that or its host will find the measures with which to extirpate and outlive it.

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