Canadian author Graeme Gibson dies, aged 85; Atwood pays tribute to 'beloved' partner

Canadian author Graeme Gibson dies, aged 85; Atwood pays tribute to 'beloved' partner

Canadian author Graeme Gibson has passed away, aged 85, with his partner Margaret Atwood paying tribute to her "beloved" spouse. 

The author of The Bedside Book series (Bloomsbury) died in a London hospital on Wednesday 18th September, after “a lovely last few weeks, and he went out on a high, surrounded by love, friendship and appreciation”, Atwood said.

A committed conservationist, Gibson has published The Bedside Book of Birds and The Bedside Book of Beasts miscellanies with Bloomsbury in the UK in 2005 and 2009 respectively. He also published four novels including Perpetual Motion, which was published by Penguin Books UK.

Bloomsbury founder Nigel Newton said: “I was deeply fond of Graeme who was the brilliant author of two books with Bloomsbury as well as an old friend. My last memory of Graeme is of a happy breakfast in our kitchen after Margaret appeared at the short story festival at Charleston. I shall miss him greatly.”

In recent weeks Gibson, who had dementia, had accompanied Atwood on her tour to launch The Testaments in London. The Montreal Gazette reported Atwood had cancelled an event to discuss her new novel in Montreal on Wednesday 18th September due to “an unforeseen family illness”.

In a statement on behalf of the family, Atwood said: "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."

Gibson was born in 1934 in London, Ontario and lived in Toronto with Atwood for the last few decades. He founded the Writers' Trust of Canada, the Writers' Union of Canada, and served as the president of PEN Canada. In his lifetime, he received the Harbourfront Festival Prize and the Toronto Arts Award, and was a member of the Order of Canada.

Kristin Cochrane, c.e.o. 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's US publisher, Nan A Talese, president and publisher of Nan A Talese/Doubleday, said: “I was lucky enough to publish two of Graeme’s books – The Bedside Book of Birds and The Bedside Book of Bears, both glorious – and of course all of Peggy’s books for forty years now. They were so happy to be in one another’s lives, and we were so happy to be in theirs. Graeme was a brilliant, gentle soul and will be deeply missed.”