Peter Matthiessen, one of America’s top writers in the past 60 years, died on Saturday at the age of 86. The Guardian carries an obituary. He had been suffering from Leukemia.
Born in 1927, Matthiessen is remembered for co-founding The Paris Review literary magazine in the 1950s but he also enjoyed a long writing career where he effortlessly switched between fiction and non-fiction. His best known book is The Snow Leopard, published in 1978, but he was also acclaimed for his 2008 novel, Shadow Country, which is a reworking of an earlier trilogy of novels. His writing on nature and conservation, which ranged from birdlife to sharks, has been highly influential on the modern environmental movement.
The Snow Leopard, a landmark book in modern naturalism, details his two-month search for the endangered Snow Leopard with naturalist George Schaller in Tibet. The book also has underlying themes about Zen Buddhism and his thoughts on his wife’s death from cancer.
In an interview with The Paris Review, he described himself as…
I am a fiction writer who also writes nonfiction on behalf of social and environmental causes or journals about expeditions to wild places. I have written more books of nonfiction because my fiction is an exploratory process—not laborious, merely long and slow and getting slower.
The Snow Leopard won for the National Book Award for non-fiction in 1980 and Shadow Country won for Fiction category in 2008. Mattiessen’s latest novel, In Paradise, is published this week. It’s the story of a Zen retreat held on the site of a Nazi concentration camp.
A graduate of Yale, he co-founded The Paris Review with George Plimpton while living in France. On his return to the USA, Matthiessen studied Buddhism, became a Zen priest, and continued to write fiction and non-fiction.
There are hundreds of signed copies of his books for sale on AbeBooks.co.uk. His most collectable works are signed first editions of The Snow Leopard and first editions of his debut novel, Race Rock. There is also a deluxe limited edition of his non-fiction book, Men’s Lives – a tribute to the fishermen of New York’s Long Island where Matthiessen lived.
Peter Matthiessen’s Fiction
Race Rock (1954)
At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965)
Far Tortuga (1975)
On the River Styx and Other Stories (1989)
The Watson trilogy
Shadow Country (2008)
In Paradise (2014)
Peter Matthiessen’s Non-Fiction
Wildlife in America (1959)
The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness (1961)
Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in the Stone Age (1962)
The Shorebirds of North America (1967)
Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution (1969)
Blue Meridian. The Search for the Great White Shark (1971)
The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972)
The Snow Leopard (1978)
Sand Rivers, photographer Hugo van Lawick (1981)
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983)
Indian Country (1984)
Nine-headed Dragon River: Zen Journals 1969–1982 (1986)
Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Baymen of the South Fork (1986)
African Silences (1991)
Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia (1992)
East of Lo Monthang: In the Land of the Mustang (1995)
The Peter Matthiessen Reader: Nonfiction, 1959–1961 (2000)
Tigers in the Snow (2000)
The Birds of Heaven: Travels With Cranes (2001)
End of the Earth: Voyage to Antarctica (2003)