RIP Álvaro Mutis, 1923 – 2013
Colombian writer Álvaro Mutis died in Mexico City today. He was ninety.
Mutis is likely most famous in the English-speaking world for his excellent series of picaresque novellas focusing on the Gaviero, which have been collected as The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll. I first learned of the book through a friend who reviewed it on this blog; his review made me pick it up and read and riff on it myself. I don’t know if I can overstate how wonderful these novellas are. I’ve mixed them into my readings over the past year, breaking up the space between new novels by taking a trip with the Gaviero. They are something beyond palate-cleansers; they are the kind of adventure narratives that made me fall in love with reading in the first place. I feel strangely fortunate that there are two more I have yet to read.
And: a 2001 interview with Mutis by Francisco Goldman. From that interview:
FG: If you could travel with Maqroll to any period, which would it be?
AM: The 18th century. Casanova and I would have been friends. I would have been friends with the Prince de Ligne and I would have lived in Paris and Venice. I’d take the elegant life, the brilliant prose, like Voltaire—each time you read him you realize that he’s the real thing. And that is where my interest in the 18th century ends; once they get to the French Revolution and the horror and saving of mankind, that’s where I exit.
And a few last scraps from Un Bel Morir:
All the stories and lies about his past accumulating until they formed another being, always present and naturally more deeply loved than his own pale, useless existence composed of nausea and dreams.
A crack of wood waking him in the humble hotel on the Rue de Rempart and, in the middle of the night, leaving him on that shore where only God is aware of other people.
The eyelid twitching with the autonomous speed of one who knows he is in the hands of death. The eyelid of the man he had to kill, with repugnance, with no anger, to save the life of a woman whom he now found unbearable.
All his waiting. All the emptiness of that nameless time used up in the foolishness of negotiations, proceedings, journeys, blank days, mistaken itineraries. All that life, from which he now begs, as he slips through the wounded dark toward death, some of the leftover scraps he thinks he has a right to.