Alvaro Mutis Jaramillo was born on Aug. 25, 1923, in Bogota. His father was a Colombian diplomat who served as ambassador to Belgium, and many times the family sailed between Europe and Colombia.
The younger Mr. Mutis often visited the coffee and sugar plantation founded by his maternal grandfather and said he was as affected by the land as he was by the sea.
“All that I have written,” Mr. Mutis wrote in World Literature Today, “is destined to celebrate and perpetuate that corner of the tierra caliente from which emanates the very substance of my dreams, my nostalgias, my terrors, and my fortunes.”
Mr. Mutis became involved in literary circles in part through the invitation of the Colombian poet Leon de Greiff. By 1948, Mr. Mutis and a friend had written a chapbook of poetry, titled “The Balance.”
Mr. Mutis wrote that all copies of his debut book were destroyed that year in what became known as El Bogotazo, the rioting that followed the assassination of Colombian politician Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. His next volume of poetry, “The Elements of the Disaster,” followed in 1953.
In 1956, Mr. Mutis left for Mexico after becoming entangled in legal trouble stemming from his alleged mismanagement of funds at Standard Oil. At the behest of Colombian dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, Mr. Mutis was jailed near Mexico City for 15 months at the notorious Lecumberri prison until the Rojas Pinilla regime fell.
One of Mr. Mutis’s most noted early works was “Diary of Lecumberri” (1959), a memoir of that period.
“That experience was truly an influence, much more than Conrad or anyone else they care to name,” Mr. Mutis told an interviewer. “Because, of course, in a place like that, one experiences situations which are extreme and absolute. In there the density of human relations is absolute.
“And there is one thing you learn in prison, and I passed it on to Maqroll, and that is that you don’t judge, you don’t say, that guy committed a terrible crime against his family, so I can’t be his friend. No, in a place like that one coexists. The judging is done by the judges on the outside.”
His first work of fiction, “The Manor of Araucaima,” was published in 1973. Jaime Manrique, a noted Colombian writer and lecturer at the City College of New York, described Mr. Mutis’s voice as both “picaresque and profound.”
A complete list of survivors could not immediately be confirmed.
Mr. Mutis said that several times he had tried to end Maqroll’s life during the course of his fictional adventures. The author explained that he could not bring himself to do it: “A French writer said to me once, “Don’t keep trying to kill Maqroll, he’s going to die with you.”