Peter Matthiessen ’50, a notable author, naturalist and founder of the literary magazine The Paris Review, died of leukemia on Saturday. He was 86.
Over his career, Matthiessen published over 30 books and is the only writer to have won the National Book Award for works of both fiction and nonfiction, according to the New York Times.
Matthiessen was born in Manhattan in 1927 into great privilege. After attending the Hotchkiss School, he came to Yale, graduating in 1950 and remaining for an additional term to teach creative writing.
Shortly after graduating, he was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency and sent to Paris. There, he helped found the literary magazine “The Paris Review” in 1953, partially as a cover for spying on Americans abroad in the wake of World War II. A year later, he moved back to the United States.
For the next five and a half decades, he established himself as one of the preeminent writers of his generation. His work took him across the globe as he wrote about topics as varied as the stone age in New Guinea, the shorebirds of North America and the Selous Game Preserve in Tanzania.
Matthiessen also continued to publish fiction throughout his career, some of which was inspired by his travels reporting for nonfiction. His 2008 novel “Shadow Country” won the National Book Award.
Matthiessen’s final novel, “In Paradise,” will be published Tuesday.