Peter Matthiessen: Novelist and wilderness writer who co-founded the influential literary magazine The Paris Review


Thursday 10 April 2014 22:32
Acclaimed works: Writer Peter Matthiessen in 2004
Acclaimed works: Writer Peter Matthiessen in 2004

The US writer Peter Matthiessen, who produced such acclaimed works as The Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of the Lord, has died aged 86.

His publisher, Geoff Kloske of Riverhead Books, said that Matthiessen, who had been diagnosed with leukaemia, was ill “for some months”. He died on 5 April at a hospital near his home on Long Island in New York.

Matthiessen helped found The Paris Review, one of the most influential literary magazines, and won National Book Awards for The Snow Leopard, his spiritual account of the Himalayas, and for Shadow Country.

A leading environmentalist and wilderness writer, he embraced the best and worst that nature could bring him, whether trekking across the Himalayas, fending off sharks in Australia or enduring a hurricane in Antarctica.

Matthiessen was born in New York in 1927, the son of Erard A Matthiessen, a wealthy architect and conservationist. “The Depression had no serious effect on our well-insulated family,” the author would later write.

While at Yale, he wrote the short story “Sadie”, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, and he soon acquired an agent.

After graduation he moved to Paris and, along with fellow writer-adventurer George Plimpton, helped found The Paris Review.

In 1961, Matthiessen emerged as a major novelist with At Play in the Fields of the Lord, his tale of missionaries under siege from both natives and mercenaries in the jungles of Brazil. The book was later adapted into a film of the same name, starring John Lithgow and Daryl Hannah.

Rita Rose

Peter Matthiessen, writer: born New York City 22 May 1927; married twice; died Long Island, New York 5 April 2014.

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