Paul La Farge, Inventive Novelist, Is Dead at 52


Paul Bayard La Farge (some family members render the last name without the space) was born on Nov. 17, 1970, in Manhattan. His father, Thomas, was a writer and English teacher, and his mother, Dr. Lucy Bergson LaFarge, is editor of The Psychoanalytic Quarterly.

“I was this insufferable child who would write long mystery and fantasy stories and make my parents type them up,” he recalled in a 2017 interview with the journal aspeers. “I would read them to people, and everybody was like: ‘Oh, my God, just shut up with those stories! No one wants to hear your mystery story. It isn’t even a mystery, and we don’t get it.’ But I was really into it.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree at Yale in 1992 and did some postgraduate work at Stanford University, but left to focus on writing. As well as writing novels, he contributed to Harper’s Magazine, The New Yorker and other periodicals. For one particularly well-known article, for the magazine The Believer in 2006, he traveled to Wisconsin to play Dungeons & Dragons with Gary Gygax, a creator of the game.

Mr. La Farge and Ms. Stern married in 2009. In addition to her, he is survived by his mother; his stepfather, Dr. Richard Zimmer; and his stepmother, Wendy Walker.

Mr. La Farge taught at Bennington College, Bard College and other institutions, including Columbia University, where the writer Rivka Galchen took several of his courses.

“He was the most influential teacher I had,” she said by email. “He had a way of seeing affinities the rest of us missed.”

“As his students,” she added, “we pretty universally thought of him as maximally intelligent, maximally gentle, and also funny.”



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