MADRID – Juan Baustista Avalle-Arce, a Hispanist who specialized in the works of Miguel de Cervantes, died Dec. 25 at the University Hospital of Navarre in the north of Spain after a long illness, his widow, Constance Marginot, told Efe. He was 82.
Avalle-Arce, whose family emigrated from Navarre during the Civil War, was born in Buenos Aires and was professor in a dozen American universities in Ohio, North Carolina and California, where he lived most of his life.
After retiring in 2003, he returned to Spain, to the small village of Eneriz in Navarre “to rediscover his origins,” and lived there with his wife during his last years.
Ten days ago, his widow told Efe, Avalle-Arce’s health deteriorated and he had to enter a hospital where he died “very quickly” from multiple organ failure, Marginot said.
The intellectual was sent to boarding school in Scotland as a child where he read Don Quixote for the first time, and, upon returning to Argentina, met the philologist Amado Alonso, whom he followed to Harvard University in the United States, where he took his doctorate in 1955.
Though the Hispanist wanted to return to Spain, the Franco dictatorship did not accept foreign doctorates and he had to begin his academic life in the United States, where he taught for almost half a century without ever becoming a U.S. citizen.
In 1994, the Navarre government nominated him as a candidate for the Prince of Asturias Prize for Letters “for his contribution to the study and dissemination of Spanish literature in every international sphere of Hispanic studies” and, particularly, for his studies of the work of Miguel de Cervantes.
One of the most renowned Hispanists in the United States and much sought after as a lecturer, teacher and writer on Cervantes, he was a member of the Hispanic Society of America, the Argentine Academy of Letters, the Royal Academy of Letters in Barcelona and the Academy of Literary Studies in the United States.
Avalle-Arce published 50 books, the latest being “Las Novelas y Sus Narradores” (Novels and Novelists) in 2006, and more than 300 articles.
Though he lived many years in California’s Santa Ynez Valley and married an American, his farm was called Etxeberria and he was forever linked to Basque writing. He was, in fact, head of the Jose Miguel de Barandiaran faculty of Basque studies at the University of California and one of the founders of the Society of Basque Studies in America. EFE