VALLADOLID, Spain – Spanish writer and academic Miguel Delibes, winner of the prestigious Cervantes Prize in 1999, died Friday morning at his home in Valladolid surrounded by his loved ones, family members told Efe. He was 89.
Delibes’ health had deteriorated in the last few hours so his children canceled all their activities to be at his side, even as he sank into unconsciousness.
Miguel Delibes, who was born in the north-central city of Valladolid in 1920, was the author of some 70 books, including “La Sombre del Cipres el Alargada” (The Lengthening Shadow of the Cypress), “El Camino” (The Way), “Cinco Horas con Mario” (Five Hours with Mario), “Los Santos Inocentes” (The Innocent Saints) and “El Hereje” (The Heretic, A Novel of the Inquisition), his last novel.
The writer, who for many years was editor of the Valladolid daily El Norte de Castilla and was a member of the Royal Spanish Academy since 1973, was operated for colon cancer in 1989.
Delibes had been among the Spanish authors most adept at writing for the movies and theater, as well as one of the first to warn of the grave consequences of man’s aggression against nature.
Tributes to the deceased author poured in immediately from his peers and from the highest ranks of the Spanish government.
Spanish writer Juan Marse mourned the death of Miguel Delibes and said that, for him, Delibes was “a great writer of prose” whom he respected for “his tact and his skill” and for having portrayed “the rural Castile that he knew so well.”
The septuagenarian – winner of the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-language equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 2008 – told Efe that he didn’t know Delibes personally, though he recalled that in the 1960s, when he was living in Paris, he saw him sitting in a cafe on the Boulevard Saint Germain but was too shy to approach him.
For his part, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero sent a telegram of condolences to the Delibes family and relatives, in which he said that the writer “has been one of the greats” and “the austere voice of a country sunk in silence” during the years of the Franco dictatorship.
In his note, Zapatero said that “with the same sorrow with which the pages of ‘Seńora de Rojo con Fondo Gris’ (Lady in Red against a Grey Background) was written, all Spaniards mourn in their hearts the decease of Miguel Delibes.”
“He has been among the great ones” whose work, he said, “transcends the prestige of the prizes he won and his academic achievements since the recent beginnings of our democracy.”
The Spanish royal family on Friday also sent telegrams of condolences to Delibes’ family, in which they expressed their sorrow for the death of the Spanish writer, sources in the royal household told Efe.
King Juan Carlos phoned the Delibes family on Thursday for news of the writer’s condition, which had grown worse over the previous few hours.
The funeral for the academic and writer will be held Saturday at the Cathedral of Valladolid, in accordance with the family’s wishes. EFE