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Arts and Culture

Author, Litterateur, Environmentalist Peter Matthiessen Dies at 86

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Posted on Apr 6, 2014

    Peter Matthiessen in 2008. Photo by WNYC (CC BY 2.0)

The American who won awards for such books as “The Snow Leopard” and “Shadow Country,” co-founded literary magazine The Paris Review and was involved in the CIA’s Cold War propaganda effort died of leukemia in Long Island, N.Y., at age 86 on Saturday.

The Guardian reports:

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.

The New York Times published a profile of Matthiessen this week in advance of his last novel, “In Paradise,” which will be published Tuesday.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


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