By Timothy Findlaey
Timothy Irving Frederick Findley, OC , O. Ont. (October 30, 1930 - June 21, 2002) was a Canadian novelist and playwright.
He was also informally known by the nickname Tiff or Tiffy, an acronym of his initials.Born in Toronto, Ontario, Findley was raised in the upper class Rosedale district of the city, attending boarding school at St. Andrew's College (although leaving during grade 10 for health reasons). He pursued a career in the arts, studying dance and acting, and had significant success as an actor before turning to writing. He was part of the original Stratford Festival company in the 1950s, acting alongside Alec Guinness, and appeared in the first production of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker at the Edinburgh Festival. He also played Peter Pupkin in the CBC Television adaptation of Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town in 1952, and had an uncredited minor role in the 1964 television film John Cabot: A Man of the Renaissance.
Findley was briefly married to actress Janet Reid, but the marriage was subsequently annulled. In 1951, he met writer William Whitehead, who remained Findley's partner for the remainder of his life. Findley and Whitehead also collaborated on several documentary projects in the 1970s.
Through Wilder, Findley became a close friend of actress Ruth Gordon, whose work as a screenwriter and playwright inspired Findley to consider writing as well. After Findley published his first short story in the Tamarack Review, Gordon encouraged him to pursue writing more actively, and he eventually left acting in the 1960s.
Findley's first two novels, The Last of the Crazy People (1967) and The Butterfly Plague (1969), were originally published in Britain and the United States after having been rejected by Canadian publishers. Findley's third novel, The Wars, was published to great acclaim in 1977 and went on to win the Governor General's Award for fiction. It was adapted for film in 1981.
Timothy Findley received a Governor General's Award, the Canadian Authors Association Award, an ACTRA Award, the Order of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Award, and in 1985 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was a founding member and chair of the Writers' Union of Canada, and a president of the Canadian chapter of PEN International.
His writing, typical of the Southern Ontario Gothic genre, was heavily influenced by Jungian psychology, and mental illness, gender and sexuality were frequent recurring themes in his work. His characters often carried dark personal secrets, and were often conflicted — sometimes to the point of psychosis — by these burdens.
Findley and Whitehead resided at Stone Orchard, a farm near Cannington, Ontario, and in the south of France. In 1996, Findley was honoured by the French government, who declared him a Chevalier de l'Ordre des arts et des lettres.
Findley was also the author of several dramas for television and stage. Elizabeth Rex, his most successful play, premiered at the Stratford Festival of Canada to rave reviews and won a Governor General's award. Shadows, first performed in 2001, was his last completed work. Findley was also an active mentor to a number of young Canadian writers, including Marnie Woodrow and Elizabeth Ruth.
In the final years of Findley's life, declining health led him to move his Canadian residence to Toronto, and Stone Orchard was purchased by Canadian dancer Rex Harrington.
In 2002 he was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
Findley died on June 21, 2002 in Brignoles, France not far from his house in Cotignac.
Spadework is a novel by Canadian writer Timothy Findley set in the theater world of Stratford, Ontario. It was first published in Canada by HarperCollins Publishers in 2001.
Compared to Findley's other work, Spadework takes a lighter, more straightforward turn — which does not mean it is simple-minded. The complexity lies in the everyday drama of human relationships, enhanced by the intensity of the theater atmosphere and the ambition of young actors at a crossroads that may lead to a brilliant career or mediocre success. A cut telephone wire points to failed communication and sets off a series of events that irreversibly shape the lives of the principal characters. These events force the protagonists to re-examine their sexuality and their loyalties at the face of temptation.