06 Apr 2014 19:31:21
Peter Matthiessen, the American author who co-founded The Paris Review and won awards for books such as The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country, died on Saturday at the age of 86.
His publisher, Geoff Kloske, said Matthiessen had been “ill for some months” with leukaemia. Matthiessen died at a hospital near his home in Long Island, New York.
Born to a wealthy background in New York in 1927, Matthiessen had his first short story published in the Atlantic Monthly when he was still a student at Yale. In the early 1950s he decamped to France, where he started The Paris Review with another American expatriate, George Plimpton.
Matthiessen later acknowledged that he was a CIA recruit at the time and, as part of the intelligence agency's use of culture to influence public opinion during the Cold War, had used his work with the Review as a cover.
Often writing about environmental themes and concerns, Matthiessen had success in fiction and non-fiction. His breakthrough work was the 1961 novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord, which dealt with missionaries at work in difficult circumstances in Brazil. He won two National Book Awards, for The Snow Leopard (1978), about the Himalayas, and for Shadow Country (2008), a reworked trilogy of novels about a notorious Florida outlaw, Edgar Watson, and the disappearing Everglades in which he lived.
Matthiessen also wrote Blue Meridian, a travelogue which recorded the filming of the influential 1971 documentary Blue Water, White Death, about great white sharks. Matthiessen appears, briefly, in the film.
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