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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.
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 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.'
'A beautiful book, and worthy of the mountains he is among' Paul Theroux 'A delight' i Paper This is the account of a journey to the dazzling Tibetan plateau of Dolpo in the high Himalayas. In 1973 Matthiessen made the 250-mile trek to Dolpo, as part of an expedition to study wild blue sheep. It was an arduous, sometimes dangerous, physical endeavour: exertion, blisters, blizzards, endless negotiations with sherpas, quaking cold. But it was also a 'journey of the heart' - amongst the beauty and indifference of the mountains Matthiessen was searching for solace. He was also searching for a glimpse of a snow leopard, a creature so rarely spotted as to be almost mythical. WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY RICHARD MABEY
On a hot June morning in 1975, a shoot-out between FBI agents and American Indians erupted on a reservation near Wounded Knee in South Dakota. Two FBI agents and one Indian died. Eventually four Indians, all members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) were indicted on murder charges, Twenty-two years late, one of them, Leonard Peltier, is still serving two consecutive life sentences. The story of what really happened and why Matthiessen is convinced of Peltier's innocence, forms the central narrative in this classic work of investigative reporting. But Mathiessen also reveals the larger issues behind the Pine Ridge shoot-out: systematic discrimination by the white authorities; corporate determination to exploit the uranium deposits in the Black Hills; the breaking of treaties; and FBI hostility towards the AIM, which was set up to bring just such issues to light. When this book was first published it was immediately the subject of two $25 million-dollar legal actions that attempted to suppress it permanently. After eight years of court battles, ending with a Supreme Court judgement, Mathiessen won the right to tell Peltier's and his people's story.
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 entrepreneurial 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.
In the late autumn of 1996, more than a hundred people gather at the site of a former death camp. Throughout that week, they offer prayer and witness at the crematoria and meditate in all weathers on the selection platform. They eat and sleep in the sparse quarters of the Nazi officers who, half a century before, sent more than a million Jews to their deaths in this single camp. These people are joined by Clements Olin, an American academic of Polish descent, there to complete his research on the strange suicide of a survivor, even as he questions what a non-Jew with no connection to its history can contribute to the understanding of so monstrous a catastrophe. As the days pass, tensions both political and personal surface among the participants, stripping away any easy pretense to resolution or healing. Caught in the grip of emotions and impulses of bewildering intensity, Olin is forced to abandon his observer's role and to bear witness, not only to his family's ambiguous history but to his own as well. In Paradise is a profoundly searching new novel by a writer of incomparable range, power, and achievement who writes 'like an avenging angel' (Time).
An unforgettable spiritual journey through the Himalayas... In 1973, Peter Matthiessen and field biologist George Schaller traveled high into the remote mountains of Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and possibly glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard. Matthiessen, a student of Zen Buddhism, was also on a spiritual quest to find the Lama of Shey at the ancient shrine on Crystal Mountain. As the climb proceeded, Matthiessen charted his inner path as well as his outer one, with a deepening Buddhist understanding of reality, suffering, impermanence, and beauty.
In the summer of 1968 Peter Matthiessen met Cesar Chavez for the first time. They were the same age: forty-one. Matthiessen lived in New York City, while Chavez lived in the Central Valley farm town of Delano, where the grape strike was unfolding. This book is Matthiessen's panoramic yet finely detailed account of the three years he spent working and traveling with Chavez, including to Sal Si Puedes, the San Jose barrio where Chavez began his organizing. Matthiessen provides a candid look into the many sides of this enigmatic and charismatic leader who lived by the laws of nonviolence. Sal Si Puedes is less reportage than living history. In its pages a whole era comes alive: the Chicano, Black Power, and antiwar movements; the browning of the labor movement; Chavez's fasts; the nationwide boycott of California grapes. When Chavez died in 1993, tens of thousands gathered at his funeral. It was a clear sign of how beloved he was and how important his life had been. A new foreword by Marc Grossman considers the significance of Chavez's legacy for our time. As well as serving as an indispensable guide to the 1960s, this book rejuvenates the extraordinary vitality of Chavez's life and spirit, giving his message a renewed and much-needed urgency.
When Watson's son Lucius returns to the treacherous wilderness of the Everglades searching for the truth about his father's death, the coast's lawless inhabitants, alligator poachers and moonshiners hold close their secrets, and a deep uneasiness drifts through the region like a low swamp mist.
In the Baliem Valley in central New Guinea lived a Stone Age tribe which survived into the twentieth century - the Kurelu. Matthiessen joined the Harvard-Peabody Expedition of 1961which set out to study the tribe as unobtrusively as possible, living among the Kurelu for two seasons. The result was this classic account, not of the expedition but of a lost culture; the Kurelu's timeless rhythms of work and play, of warriorship, feasting and funerals. In Under the Mountain Wall Matthiessen illuminates the lives of the Kurelu's with respect and sympathy, capturing a culture untouched by civilisation and vanishing along with the wilderness lying beneath the dramatic peaks of the Snow Mountains.
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.