Naturalist author Peter Matthiessen dies at 86
Globetrotting US naturalist and writer Peter Matthiessen, known for books such as “At Play in the Fields of the Lord,” has died at his New York state home, his publisher said. He was 86.
“Peter passed away this evening. We are honored to have known him and his beautiful and wild mind,” his publisher Riverhead Books said in a statement.
Matthiessen, who reportedly had been treated for leukemia in the past year, had been awaiting publication of his final novel, “In Paradise,” April 8, Riverhead confirmed.
Matthiessen was among the founders of the prestigious literary magazine The Paris Review.
In 1961, Matthiessen, a wilderness trekker and liberal environmentalist, raised his profile as a novelist with “At Play in the Fields of the Lord.” The story of missionaries in the crosshairs of indigenous people and mercenaries in Brazil’s Amazon jungle was made into a Hollywood film starring John Lithgow and Daryl Hannah.
He also earned National Book Awards for “The Snow Leopard,” about a spiritual trip to the Himalayas, and for “Shadow Country.”
Though he grew up a child of privilege, his life took dramatic turns as his personal adventures took him from Asia to Australia to New Guinea and South America; he was even a CIA spy in Paris in the 1950s.
While he wrote more than 30 books, the peripatetic Matthiessen — arguably better known for his non-fiction — called fiction his greater calling.
Yet they were complementary talents, among many. Indeed, he was the only writer honored with the National Book Award in both fiction and non-fiction.