Obituary: Graeme Gibson, Canadian author and conservationist

(Picture: Getty Images)
(Picture: Getty Images)
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Graeme Gibson, novelist and conservationist. Born: 9 August 1934 in London, Ontario, Canada. Died: 18 September 2019 in London, UK

Graeme Gibson, a Canadian novelist and conservationist, died on Wednesday aged 85. His death was announced by Doubleday, which has published both Gibson and his longtime partner Margaret Atwood. He had been suffering from dementia.

“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,” Atwood said. “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.”

He died in London, where Atwood had been promoting her new novel.

Gibson began seeing Atwood in the 1970s and for decades lived with her in Toronto. Their mutual devotion and his support of her career led one journalist to state: “Every woman writer should be married to Graeme Gibson,” an expression Atwood used for a T-shirt. “He thought it was funny,” Atwood said in 2013. “He’s pretty good – he mostly just keeps out of the way. And I don’t show him my books before they’re in print. I recommend it. Supposing your spouse doesn’t like your work – then you’re in trouble.”

Known early in his career for his modernist writing style, he published novels such as Five Legs and Perpetual Motion, and was active with numerous organisations, such as PEN Canada and World Wildlife Fund Canada. His well-regarded nonfiction book Eleven Canadian Novelists included interviews with Atwood and Nobel laureate Alice Munro.

He had two sons with former wife Shirley Gibson, whom he divorced in the early 1970s, and a daughter with Atwood.