Canadian author Graeme Gibson dies, publisher announces

Graeme Gibson 1934-2019

The author Graeme Gibson has died, according to announcement by his publisher Penguin Random House. He was 85.

Gibson had been confronting Alzheimer’s disease in recent months. His books were published by the imprints McClelland & Stewart and Doubleday Canada including his non-fiction, The Bedside Book of Birds and The Bedside Book of Beasts.

Kristin Cochrane, the CEO of Penguin Random House Canada, said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of such a beloved and distinguished author. Graeme was a friend to several generations of Canadian writers. As a founding member of both the Writers’ Trust of Canada and the Writers’ Union of Canada, his influence on the lives of writers in this country has been profound and far-reaching. We are grateful for that superlative legacy, one that will continue to flourish, and also grateful for our own experiences working with Graeme: a true gentleman, whose gracious, elegant, and witty manner touched all who knew him.”

Gibson was the author of the novels Five Legs, Communion, Perpetual Motion and Gentleman Death

Gibson co-founded the Writers’ Trust of Canada and the Writers’ Union of Canada and he served as the president of PEN Canada. He received the Harbourfront Festival Prize and the Toronto Arts Award and he was a member of the Order of Canada.

He was a council member of World Wildlife Fund Canada and chairman of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory. Gibson was born Aug. 9, 1934 in London, Ontario.

His life partner is the novelist, writer and thinker Margaret Atwood.

She released a statement on Wednesday morning: “We are devastated by the loss of Graeme, our beloved father, grandfather, and spouse, but we are happy that he achieved the kind of swift exit he wanted and avoided the decline into further dementia that he feared. He had a lovely last few weeks, and he went out on a high, surrounded by love, friendship and appreciation. We are grateful for his wise, ethical, and committed life.”

Atwood cancelled appearances in Ottawa and Montreal this week.

The event in Ottawa, hosted by the Ottawa International Writers Festival, was to have taken place at 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 in the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre.

The event in Montreal was to be held on Wednesday evening at that city’s St. James United Church.

In both events, Atwood was to discuss her new novel, The Testaments, the sequel to her dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

Ticket holders for both sold-out events are advised to hold on to their tickets. They will be honoured on a new date, to be announced soon.

Atwood has been on a whirlwind of media interviews and appearances in Canada and overseas. The Testaments is already on the Giller Prize long list and the Man Booker prize shortlist.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.