Cormac McCarthy at Santa Fe's La Fonda Hotel in 2023. (image: Kate Joyce)

Cormac McCarthy, novelist, SFI Trustee and Life Fellow, colleague, friend, and inspiration

“. . . the true heir to Melville and Faulkner." —Harold Bloom, literary critic.

Cormac McCarthy, a Trustee of the Santa Fe Institute and one of the greatest American novelists, passed away on Tuesday, June 13, at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 89 years old. Known for his award-winning books The Orchard Keeper, All the Pretty HorsesBlood Meridian, and The Road, McCarthy had a voracious mind and near-infinite interests. He befriended SFI through Murray Gell-Mann, a Nobel laureate in physics and co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute. He made SFI his second home, exchanging ideas with scientists and scholars and writing on his Olivetti manual typewriter. He wrote SFI’s Operating Principles, and also became its Lifetime Trustee and Senior Fellow of the Institute. His last novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris, delved into the ideas of mathematics, physics, and analytical themes he explored with his colleagues at SFI. 

"Today feels to me like a terrible disaster where many of us lost a good friend, the Santa Fe Institute lost one of its finest minds, and the world has lost one of its greatest authors," says SFI President David Krakauer. "Cormac refuted through his life and work the pettifogging myth that one cannot be both broad and deep. He read everything, he could sing and play a folk song after a single listen, he loved a well-tailored suit, he designed houses for his friends, he tortured himself with the philosophy of mathematics, and he schooled me in the geometry of the ideal bookshelf. Not sure what to make of the world without him in it."

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Tributes from SFI friends and colleagues: