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Spanish writer Francisco Umbral dies at 72

Spanish writer Francisco Umbral dies at 72

Francisco Umbral, a prolific writer who was an acerbic observer of his contemporary Spain, died early Tuesday, the hospital treating him said. He was 72.
Umbral died from respiratory and heart failure, the Madrid-Monteprincipe Clinic said in a statement. He had been admitted earlier in the month suffering from pneumonia.
Umbral, whose real name was Francisco Perez Martinez, produced work ranging from essays, literary criticism and linguistics studies to often biting political and social commentary in newspapers. He was widely known for his thick black glasses and trademark white scarf, as well as his hard, gravelly voice.
Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia send a condolence telegram to Umbral's widow, saying that the writer was "an essential character in Spanish literature." Other writers and journalists said his death represented the disappearance of a master of columnists.
"He made art out of a newspaper column," said Pedro J. Ramirez, director of Madrid daily El Mundo where Umbral had worked for the past 15 years producing a daily column on the newspaper's back page. "He was the best contemporary writer and probably the best in the history of Spanish journalism," Ramirez said.
Often described as one of the foremost writers of 20th century Spanish prose, Umbral was noted for his baroque language, sense of humor and irony.
Although born in 1935 in Madrid, a city that inspired most of his work, his early years were spent in Valladolid.
He was an illegitimate child, and the distance and indifference from his mother during his childhood and the loss of his only child would mark him for the rest of his life, an enduring sadness which he reflected in his books.
He was known to have a bitter character and was prone to controversies and enmities. He would openly criticize well-known people in his articles and walked out on a live TV program because participants were not talking about his new book.
An avid reader, he began his career as journalist in Valladolid at the local Norte de Castilla newspaper and in 1961 he returned to Madrid as a correspondent to become a prestigious reporter with Spain's most varied and influential magazines and newspapers.
He was awarded Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias prize in 1996 and the Cervantes Prize in 2000.
Umbral is survived by his wife, photographer Maria Espana. He was to be cremated in Madrid on Wednesday.