Alvaro Mutis: Award-winning poet, essayist and novelist

 

The prolific writer and poet Alvaro Mutis, who has died at the age of 90, enjoyed wide popularity outside Colombia and was considered by critics, including his good friend Gabriel García Marquez, as one of the most outstanding poets and storytellers of his generation. Despite the difficulties he faced, including time in a Mexican prison, Mutis produced an extensive collection of novels and poetry that earned major international honours such as the Xavier Villaurrutia, Prince of Asturias and Cervantes prizes.

He was born in 1923 in Bogota, Mutis was the son of the diplomat, Santiago Mutis, and Carolina Jaramillo. He spent part of his early years in Brussels, where his father was Colombia's ambassador. His literary career began in 1948 with the publication of his first volume of poetry, The Balance, followed in 1953 by Elements of the Disaster.

Before winning fame as a writer, Mutis traveled to Mexico in 1956 with letters of recommendation from the Spanish film-maker Luis Bunuel and the 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 US multinational Standard Oil, where he worked as head of public relations.

He wrote Diary of Lecumberri (1959), about his experience in the infamous jail, which he called "a lesson I will never forget in the most intense and deep layers of pain and failure."

Mutis' work is distinguished by a rich and interesting mix of the lyrical and narrative. He began to gain popularity in 1986 with the publication of his first instalment of his most famous work, The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, a collection of seven novellas about a wayward and quixotic sailor, considered by many critics to be one of the most memorable characters in fiction of recent decades. A solitary traveller who brings a stranger's detachment to his encounters and his lovers, he searches for meaning in a time of violence and inhumanity. In this sense some critics have compared Maqroll to Oedipus

Many say Maqroll mirrored the writer, who travelled extensively in many jobs that included broadcaster, film executive – he worked for the Latin American television divisions of Twentieth Century Fox and Columbia – 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. He was a witty man with a great sense of humour, the Mexican poet Hugo Gutierrez Vega said in a recent interview with the cultural commission commemorating Mutis's 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.

Alvaro Mutis Jaramillo, writer: born Bogota 25 August 1923; died Mexico City 22 September 2013.

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne celebrates after salvaging a point with the Southampton equaliser
footballAston Villa vs Southampton report
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
Out and about: for 'Glee' character Bert Hummel, having a gay son was a learning curve
lifeEven 'cool' parents need help parenting gay teens
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible