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Peter Matthiessen is the author of more than thirty books and the only writer to win the National Book Award for both non-fiction (The Snow Leopard, in two categories, in 1979 and 1980) and fiction (Shadow Country, in 2008). A co-founder of The Paris Review and a world-renowned naturalist, explorer and activist, he died in April 2014.
In Paradise tells the story of a group of men and women who come together for a weeklong meditation retreat at the site of a World War II concentration camp, and the grief, rage and upsetting revelations that surface during their time together. Even as it probes the suffering, conflicts, and longings of these diverse characters, In Paradise raises provocative and unanswerable metaphysical questions: what responsibility comes with bearing witness to such cruelty and tragedy; and what insights into the nature of good and evil may be lost in the next decade or two, as the last survivors of - and witnesses to - the death camps pass away. Having participated in three Zen retreats at Auschwitz beginning in the 1990s, Matthiessen had long wished to comment on the ongoing fallout of last century's global catastrophe, but 'as a non-Jewish American journalist, I felt unqualified to do so, I felt I had no right. But approaching it as fiction - as a novelist, an artist - I eventually decided that I did. Only fiction would allow me to probe from a variety of viewpoints the great strangeness of what I had felt.'
Inspired by a near-mythic event of the wild Florida frontier at the turn of the twentieth century, Shadow Country reimagines the legend of the inspired Everglades sugar planter and notorious outlaw E. J. Watson, who drives himself to his own violent end at the hands of his neighbours. His son Lucius investigates the killing which has come to obsess him. In this bold new rendering of the Watson trilogy Matthiessen has deepened the insights and motivations of his characters, consolidating his fictional masterwork into a poetic, compelling novel of a monumental scope and ambition, with breathtaking accomplishment.
In this classic volume, Peter Matthiessen exquisitely combines nature and travel writing to bring East Africa to vivid life. He skillfully and magically portrays the sights, scenes, and people he observed firsthand in several trips over the course of a dozen years: the daily lives of herdsmen and hunter-gatherers; the drama of the predator kills; the hundreds of exotic animals; the breathtaking landscapes; the area's turbulent natural, political, and social histories; the adventures of the field biologists who pursue and investigate the habits of wild creatures; the anthropologists seeking man's origins throughout the Rift Valley; and the lonely African, poised between the traditional ways and the conflicting demands of Western culture. A finalist for the National Book Award when it was released in 1972, this vivid portrait of East Africa remains as fresh and revelatory now as on the day it was first published.
In a malarial outpost in the South American rain forest, two misplaced gringos converge and clash. Martin Quarrier has come to convert the fearful and elusive Niaruna Indians to his brand of Christianity. Lewis Moon, a stateless mercenary who is himself part Indian, has come to kill them on behalf of the local commandante. Out of their struggle, Peter Matthiessen has created an electrifying moral thriller, a novel of Conradian richness that explores both the varieties of spiritual experience and the politics of cultural genocide.
Peter Mattiessen has long been known for his travels to some of the remotest lands on earth, most notably recorded in The Snow Leopard. The Cloud Forest brings to vivid life a South American journey that took him from the Sargasso Sea to the jungles of Amazonia, from the Inca city of Machu Picchu high in the Andes to the bleak rocks of Tierra del Fuego and the winds and vast skies of Patagonia. The result is an incisive and marvellously well-observed journal by a born writer and naturalist, a voyage of exploration among the people, places and fading wildlife of this most exotic and mysterious of continents.
For twenty thousand miles, Peter Matthiessen crisscrossed the South American wilderness, traveling from the Amazonian rain forests to Machu Picchu high in the Andes, down to the edge of the world at Tierra del Fuego and back. In the course of his journey, he followed the trails of old explorers; encountered river bandits, wild tribesmen, and the evidence of ancient ruins; and discovered a fossilized snout of a giant unknown crocodilian hidden in the depths of the jungle on the wild mountain rivers of Peru. Filled with observations and descriptions of the people and the fading wildlife of this vast world to the south, The Cloud Forest is Matthiessen's incisive, wry report of his expedition into some of the last and most exotic wild terrains in the world.
On a hot June morning in 1975, a fatal shoot-out took place between FBI agents and American Indians on a remote property near Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in which an Indian and two federal agents were killed. Eventually, four members of the American Indian Movement were indicted on murder charges in the deaths of the two agents. Leonard Peltier, the only one to be convicted, is now serving consecutive life sentences in a federal penitentiary. Behind this violent chain of events lie issues of great complexity and profound historical resonance. In this controversial book, Peter Matthiessen brilliantly explicates the larger issues behind the shoot-out, including the Lakota Indians' historical struggle with the US government, from Red Cloud's war and Little Big Horn in the nineteenth century to the shameful discrimination that led to the new Indian wars of 1970s. This powerful book was censored and kept off the shelves for eight years because of one of the most protracted and bitterly fought legal cases in publishing history.
Shadow Country is Peter Matthiessen's reimagining of the legend of E. J. Watson, the Everglades sugarcane planter and notorious outlaw of the wild Florida frontier. Vividly capturing the American hinterlands at the turn of the twentieth century, it traces the story of Watson through eyewitness perspectives as he drives himself relentlessly toward his own violent end at the hands of neighbors who mostly admired him. Shadow Country traverses strange landscapes and frontier hinterlands inhabited by Americans of every provenance and color, including the black and Indian inheritors of the archaic racism that, as Watson's wife observed, "e;still casts its shadow over the nation."e; Originally written as three separate, acclaimed novels, this is Matthiessen's bold new distillation of his monumental work. Tightened and brilliantly rewritten throughout, he has collapsed the time frame while deepening the insights and motivations of his characters, achieving his original vision of the Watson trilogy.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Peter Matthiessen took part in a number of expeditions to Africa, witnessing first-hand the continent's many and diverse peoples and wildlife. The fruits of these journeys are three of the most impressive essays on the natural world of the late twentieth century. The Tree where Man Was Born documents wild landscapes, peoples and animals, observed in a series of journeys in East Africa, from the Sudan, south through Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, exploring the Serengeti, the Maasai Mara, the Ngorongoro crater and the archaeological sites of the Rift Valley. African Silences recounts two expeditions made to West and Central Africa, including Zaire (as it then was), Gabon and the Central African Republic. Sand Rivers describes the Selous game reserve in Southern Tanzania, one of the largest, but least-known refuges for animals left on earth, and provides an unforgettable portrait of this area and the fierce, lonely men who created it. These three classic works represent Matthiessen the naturalist at his finest; written an all-encompassing curiosity and knowledge that brings alive the people, places and wildlife he encounters, and updated with a new introduction by the author.
There are no more than a few thousand tigers surviving in pockets of Asia. The largest of these, the Siberian tiger, is today almost entirely confined to the little-populated Russian Far East. Now these are under threat due to the intensified poaching and the destruction of habitat that has followed upon the collapse of the USSR. Peter Matthiessen brings to the Siberian tiger a deep knowledge of and feeling for the natural world. He tells the story of the species' origin and evolution, evoking as well its crucial role in the culture and mythology of the peoples who came into contact with it.
In this magnificent novel, which is the conclusion to the celebrated Watson trilogy, E.J. Watson tells his own story, through his turbulent life, to his death at the hands of vigilantes. From his destitute childhood in South Carolina, and the terrible events which haunt him for the rest of his days, the narrative shifts to the wilds of the Florida Everglades. Here, Watson establishes himself as a successful sugar-cane farmer, trying in vain to escape his past, and the uncontrollable, vicious side of his nature which is ultimately his downfall. Intelligent, a devoted husband and a lover, a stern father and a man capable of cruelty and cold-blooded murder, Watson is a character staggeringly real in his complexity. Bone by Bone confronts not only the racism, brutality and entrepeneurial greed of the American South at the turn of the century but also the paradox at the heart of human nature: our capacity for fierce love, compassion and unspeakable violence.
This volume gives an illustrated account of Peter Matthiessen's travels in East Africa from the Sudan, through Uganda and Kenya to Tanzania. He describes the wildlife and the game reserves of the Serengeti, Maasai Mara and the Ngorongoro Crater, and the archaeological sites at Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli in the Rift Valley. During these travels he meets Iain and Oria Douglas-Hamilton, George Adamson and George Schaller, who all dedicated their lives to studying and protecting animals. The photographs by Eliot Porter show details of human and natural history, the daily lives of wild herdmen and stone-age aborigines, and a records of the animals and landscapes of East Africa. Peter Matthiessen is the author of At Play in the Fields of the Lord , Blue Meridian , Far Tortuga , The Snow Leopard , Killing Mister Watson , African Silences and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse .
One September, the writer and explorer Peter Matthiessen set out with field biologist George Schaller to journey 250 miles through the Himalayas to the Crystal Mountain on the Tibetan plateau. They wanted to study the wild blue sheep, the bharal, but also hoped to see the snow leopard, a creature so rarely spotted as to be nearly mythical. The Snow Leopard is not only an exquisite book of natural history but an extraordinary account of an inner journey ; a 'true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart.'
In 1969 Peter Matthiessen set out with the expedition led by Peter Gimbel, whose aim was to find and film underwater for the first time the most dangerous of all sea creatures - the great white shark. Acting as the expedition's chronicler and spare hand (both on the surface and below), Matthiessen accompanied the crew from the Carribean to the whaling grounds off the Durban coast, to various islands in the Indian Ocean, to Ceylon, and finally to success off the bleak south coast of Australia. Blue Meridian records the awesome experience of swimming in open water among hundreds of sharks, the beauties of strange seas and landscapes and the camaraderie, humour and tension of people who live in close proximity and risk their lives day by day.