Celebrated Canadian author and conservationist Graeme Gibson has died. Gibson had been a founding member of both the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Writers’ Trust of Canada, had served as president of PEN Canada and been named to the Order of Canada.

In April of 2017, The New Yorker reported that Gibson had been diagnosed with early signs of dementia.

Margaret Atwood, Gibson’s partner since the 1970s, issued a statement for the family through Penguin Random House Canada, who published both authors:

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’s most recent book, The Bedside Book of Beasts, was published in 2009. January Magazine loved the book, naming it to its best books of the year list, calling it a collection of some of the very best writing “on the relationship between predators and prey.”

“They are central to us,” Gibson writes in his introduction, “and to our understanding of our place in nature, because the primal fact of hunting and/or being hunted, and the inescapable demands of hunger, have largely defined animal life on earth, and are undoubtedly one of the key energies driving evolution.” That’s the theme, in the words of the author. The reality is somewhat more beautiful. The work of around 100 artists is represented here, from people as diverse as Franz Kafka and Marian Engel, both Pablo Picasso and Pablo Neruda, Barry Lopez, Leo Tolstoy. William Blake and Wayne Grady. Slender threads of writing — fables, stories, sacred texts, essays, travel writing — wind their way around carefully selected artwork. The resulting book is a work of art in itself, capturing the very soul of the topic Gibson has chosen to editorially muse upon.

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