Álvaro Mutis

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Álvaro Mutis
Álvaro Mutis - A Pobra do Caramiñal.jpg
Born(1923-08-25)August 25, 1923
Bogotá, Colombia
DiedSeptember 22, 2013(2013-09-22) (aged 90)
Mexico City, Mexico
OccupationPoet and novelist
Notable worksThe Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll

Álvaro Mutis Jaramillo (August 25, 1923 – September 22, 2013) was a Colombian poet, novelist, and essayist.[1] His best-known work is the novel sequence The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, which revolves around the character of Maqroll el Gaviero. He won the 1991 International Nonino Prize in Italy. He was awarded the 2001 Miguel de Cervantes Prize and the 2002 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.[2]

Early life[edit]

Mutis was born in Bogotá[3] and lived in Brussels from the age of two until eleven, where his father, Santiago Mutis Dávila, held a post as a diplomat. They would return to Colombia by ship for summer holidays. During this time Mutis' family stayed at his grandfather's coffee and sugar cane plantation, Coello. For Álvaro Mutis, the impressions of these early years, his reading of Jules Verne and of Pablo Neruda's Residencia en la tierra, and, especially, contact with "el trópico" (the tropics), are the mainspring of his work. Mutis studied high school at the Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Bogotá under the tutelage of the Colombian poet Eduardo Carranza. Although he never finished school, he entered the literary world in Bogotá as a poet, a member of the Cántico group that emerged in 1940s. In 1948 Mutis and Carlos Patiño published a chapbook of poems called La balanza. From 1956 on, he lived in Mexico City, gaining renown there as the result of the positive reviews of his work by Octavio Paz, who was a champion of Mutis' early poetry.

Literary career[edit]

Mutis' poetry was first published in 1948 and his first short stories in 1978. His first novella featuring Maqroll, La nieve del Almirante (The Snow of the Admiral) was published in 1986 and gained him popular and critical acclaim. He has received many literary awards, including the Prix Médicis (France, 1989), Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras (Spain, 1997), Premio Miguel de Cervantes (Spain, 2001), and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (United States, 2002), for The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, a volume collecting all seven novellas about Maqroll the Gaviero.

Mutis has combined his career as a writer of poetry and prose with a diverse set of non-literary occupations. Like his protagonist Maqroll, Mutis traveled widely in his professional roles including five years as Standard Oil's public relations director and over 20 years as sales manager for Twentieth Century Fox and Columbia Pictures in their Latin American television divisions. Latin Americans first became familiar with his voice when he did the narration for the Spanish-language television version of The Untouchables.

In the 1950s, Mutis spent 15 months in a Mexican prison Palacio de Lecumberri as a consequence of his handling of money that had been set aside for charitable use by Standard Oil. He had been using the money to help his friends who were under threat from the military dictatorship in Colombia, and after he fled to Mexico, the Mexican government bowed to Colombian pressure and had him imprisoned. As soon as the Colombian dictatorship fell, the charges against him were dropped and he was freed.[4] His experience in prison had a lasting influence on his life and work, and is chronicled in the book Diario de Lecumberri.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Mutis' close friend, Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel García Márquez, called him "one of the greatest writers of our time."[5]

Mutis' works are most widely read in Latin America and Europe. Mutis is not well known in the anglophone world, probably because he is not easy to categorize. His literary work is not part of what is commonly understood in the American academy as "Latin American Literature".[6] Maqroll, his most well-known character, is of indeterminate origin, nationality, age and physiognomy. He is not evidently from Latin America and does not represent anything particularly Latin American in character. Maqroll is a solitary traveler 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 literary critics have compared Maqroll to Sophocles' Oedipus.[7]

Political views[edit]

He described himself as "reactionary, legitimist and monarchist".[8] Labelled as an "old reactionary", he was the coauthor of the 2002 Manifesto Against the Death of the Spirit and the Earth, itself described as an initiative to promote the ideas of the Nouvelle Droite.[9][10]


  • Diario de Lecumberri (1960)
  • The Snow Of The Admiral (1986)
  • Ilona Arrives with the Rain (1987) (loosely adapted into the 1996 film of the same name)
  • The Tramp Steamer’s Last Port of Call (1988)
  • Un Bel Morir (1989)
  • Amirbar (1990)
  • Abdul Bashur, Dreamer of Ships (1991)
  • Triptych on Sea and Land (1993)
  • The Adventures of Maqroll: Four Novellas (1995), consisting of the previously-published:
    • The Tramp Steamer’s Last Port of Call
    • Amirbar
    • Abdul Bashur, Dreamer of Ships
    • Triptych on Sea and Land
  • Summa de Maqroll el Gaviero: Poesía 1948–1997 (1997)
  • The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll (2002), consisting of the previously-published:
    • The Snow Of The Admiral
    • Ilona Arrives With The Rain
    • Un Bel Morir
    • The Tramp Steamer’s Last Port of Call
    • Amirbar
    • Abdul Bashur, Dreamer of Ships
    • Triptych on Sea and Land

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ Bethell, Leslie, ed. (27 October 1995). The Cambridge History of Latin America. Volume X: Latin America Since 1930, Ideas, Culture, and Society. Cambridge University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-521-49594-3. Retrieved 2013-10-19. |volume= has extra text (help)
  2. ^ "Álvaro Mutis Jaramillo, Colombian writer and poet, dies aged 90 | World news". theguardian.com. Associated Press. 23 September 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-23.
  3. ^ "Murió el escritor y poeta colombiano Álvaro Mutis" [Colombian writer and poet Álvaro Mutis has died]. El Universal (in Spanish). 22 September 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
  4. ^ Fransisco Goldman (2002). The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll. The New York Review of Books. ISBN 0940322919.
  5. ^ Ruy-Sánchez, Alberto (2000). "Álvaro Mutis y sus rituales góticos de Tierra Caliente". Cuatro escritores rituales. Conaculta. ISBN 970-18-7269-X.
  6. ^ Goldman, Francisco (Winter 2001). "Alvaro Mutis". Bomb (74). Archived from the original on 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
  7. ^ Alzate Cuervo, Gastón (1994). "La Desesperanza como un Continuum Cultural" [Hopelessness as a Cultural Continuum]. Senderos (in Spanish). Bogotá: Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia. 5 (27 & 28): 679–82. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
  8. ^ "Álvaro Mutis. Entrevista". elmundo.es.
  9. ^ González Cuevas, Pedro Carlos. "Las "otras" derechas en la España actual. Teólogos, "racionalistas" y neoderechistas". Bulletin d'Histoire Contemporaine de l'Espagne. Aix-en-Provence: Publications de l’université de Provence (44): 276–277. ISSN 0987-4135.
  10. ^ Sanromán, Diego L. (2006). "Contra la muerte del espíritu: últimos avatares de una nouvelle droite a la española" (PDF). Nómadas. Critical Journal of Social and Juridical Sciences. 13 (1). ISSN 1578-6730.
  11. ^ "Colombian given literary award". The Oklahoma Daily. October 18, 2002. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hernández, Consuelo. Álvaro Mutis: Una estética del deterioro. Caracas: Monte Ávila, 1997.
  • Hernández, Consuelo. "Del poema narrativo a la novela poética." Tradición y actualidad de la literatura iberoamericana. P. Bacarisse, editor. Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana. Tomo I. University of Pittsburgh. pp. 101–115.
  • Hernández, Consuelo. "Razón del extraviado: Mutis entre dos mundos." Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos. No. 523. Madrid.
  • Hernández, Consuelo. "Los amores de Maqroll en el anverso social". Álvaro Mutis. Semana del Autor. Madrid: Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana, 1993. pp. 67–78.
  • Ferdinandy, Miguel de (1988). "'El estratega': un cuento de Álvaro Mutis Eco". Tras las rutas de Maqroll el Gaviero. pp. 43–48.
  • Garcia Aguilar, Eduardo (2000). Celebraciones y otros fantasmas: una biografía intelectual de Álvaro Mutis. Barcelona: Casiopea.
  • Quiroz, Fernando. "El Reino que estaba para mí, conversaciones con Álvaro Mutis", Bogotá: Ed. norma. 1993.
  • Salgado, María Antonia (2003). Modern Spanish American poets (Dictionary of literary biography).
  • Solé, Carlos A. (2002). Latin American writers, Supplement I.

External links[edit]