MEXICO CITY (AP) — Prolific Colombian writer and poet Alvaro Mutis Jaramillo died in Mexico’s capital Sunday. He was 90 years old.
The cause of death couldn’t immediately be confirmed, though Mexican media quoted his wife, Carmen Miracle, as saying he died at a cardiac hospital from a cardio-respiratory problem.
Mutis enjoyed wide popularity outside Colombia and was considered by critics as one of the most outstanding poets and storytellers of his generation, after his good friend, Nobel laureate Gabriel García Marquez.
Despite the difficulties he faced, including time in a Mexican prison, Mutis produced an extensive collection of novels and poetry that earned major international honors such as the Xavier Villaurrutia, Prince of Asturias and Cervantes prizes.
Mexico’s National Commission for Culture and the Arts lamented the death of the literary giant via its Twitter account.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos sent his condolences after Mutis’ death was confirmed by the cultural commission Sunday night.
“The millions of friends and admirers of Alvaro Mutis profoundly lament his death,” Santos wrote. “All of Colombia honors him.”
Colombian writer Gustavo Alvarez Gardeazabal called him “a remarkable narrator, remarkable poet and remarkable friend.”
Mutis was a witty man with a great sense of humor, Mexican poet Hugo Gutierrez Vega said in a recent interview with the cultural commission commemorating Mutis’ 90th birthday.
“He describes a lost world, the old Colombia of rural ownership, like the family Mutis,” Gutierrez said, noting that he spent part of his childhood the family coffee and sugar cane farm in Coello.
From that experience, his developed a fascination with the sea, the tropics and the smell of coffee that marked his literary works, according to the cultural commission.
Born Aug. 25, 1923, in Bogota, Mutis was the son of Colombian diplomat Santiago Mutis and Carolina Jaramillo. He spent part of his early years in Brussels, Belgium, where his father served as Colombia’s ambassador.
His literary carreer began in 1948 with the publication of his first volume of poetry, “The Balance,” followed in 1953 with “Elements of the Disaster.”
Before winning fame as a writer, Mutis traveled to Mexico in 1956 with letters of recommendation from prominent Spanish filmmaker Luis Bunuel and Mexican television producer Luis de Llano Palmer and never left.
Three years after his arrival, he spent 15 months in Lecumberri prison in Mexico City, accused of embezzlement by the U.S. multinational Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, where he worked as head of public relations.
He wrote “Diary of Lecumberri,” published in 1959, about his experience in the infamous lockup, which he called “a lesson I will never forget in the most intense and deep layers of pain and failure.”
Mutis’ work, according to critics, is distinguished by a rich and interesting mix of lyrical and narrative.
He started gaining popularity in 1986 with the publication of his first installment of his most famous work, “The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll,” a collection of seven novellas about a wayward and quixotic sailor, considered one of the most memorable characters in fiction of recent decades. Many say Maqroll mirrored the writer, who traveled extensively in many jobs that included broadcaster, film executive, radio actor and newspaper columnist.
After retiring in 1988, he devoted himself to reading and writing.
His novels include “The Manor of Araucaima” and “The True Story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.”