Notable Deaths ›

Graeme Gibson (1934–2019), author and longtime partner of Margaret Atwood

Getty Images / Ulf Andersen

He wrote novels as well as nonfiction including the nature works “The Bedside Book of Birds” (2005) and “The Bedside Book of Beasts” (2009)

Graeme Gibson was a Canadian author and conservationist who was the longtime partner of author Margaret Atwood. Gibson wrote novels including “Five Legs” (1969) and “Perpetual Motion” (1982). His nonfiction works included nature works “The Bedside Book of Birds” (2005) and “The Bedside Book of Beasts” (2009) as well as 1973’s “Eleven Canadian Novelists,” for which he interviewed Atwood as well as Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, and others. As a conservationist, Gibson chaired the Pelee Island Bird Observatory and served on the council of World Wildlife Fund Canada. He had been partner since 1973 to Atwood, who wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale” and released its long-awaited sequel, “The Testaments,” just a week before Gibson’s death. He was diagnosed with the early signs of dementia in 2017.

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>Died: September 18, 2019 (Who else died on September 18?)

Details of death: Died in London of a stroke at the age of 85.


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Notable quote: “Somewhere along the way we identified ourselves with them, and came to associate birds with the realm of spirits, as opposed to that of bodies and their carnal appetites.” —from “The Bedside Book of Birds”

What people said about him: “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.” —Family statement from Margaret Atwood

“Such a loss to the literary community, bird conservation, human rights causes and all of us who had the good luck to know this gentle, funny, erudite and wise man.” —Literary agent Karolina Sutton

“The great-hearted Graeme Gibson, author, poet, birder and conservationist, has ‘crossed the bar.’ Countless Canadian writers, myself included, were the beneficiaries of his encouragement and good wishes. I will think of him when the warblers move in spring.” —Author Trevor Herriot

Full obituary: The Globe and Mail

Related lives:

  • Toni Morrison (1931–2019), Nobel Prize-winning author of “Beloved”
  • Farley Mowat (1921–2014), Canadian author and environmentalist
  • Richard Adams (1920–2016), British author of “Watership Down”