Spanish Intellectual Francisco Ayala Dies at 103

Published: November 3, 2009
Filed at 11:16 a.m. ET
MADRID (AP) -- Francisco Ayala, a novelist, sociologist and one of Spain's leading scholars, died Tuesday at age 103 after outliving the dictatorship that led him to flee into exile.
Ayala's foundation said he died of natural causes at his home in Madrid.
Ayala won many prestigious prizes in Spain, from the Cervantes award -- considered the Spanish-language equivalent of the Nobel for literature -- in 1991 to the Prince of Asturias in 1998.
His life as a young man turned into a flight from the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, which ended after Franco died in 1975.
At the outbreak of the conflict in 1936, Ayala was in Buenos Aires on a lecture tour. He returned to work for the Spanish Republican government but, three years later, as Franco's troops entered Barcelona and the war was all but over, Ayala took the route of many Spanish intellectuals -- exile in America.
Ayala published his first book, "Tragicomedia de un hombre sin espiritu" (Tragicomedy of a Man Without Spirit), in 1925 and received a doctorate in law from Madrid University in 1930.
In Buenos Aires, he taught sociology and founded the literary and cultural magazine "Reality," publishing works by Argentine and Spanish writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar and Juan Ramon Jimenez.
He then moved to Puerto Rico in 1950, where he founded the respected cultural magazine, "La Torre."
In 1955, he began a 20-year stint in the United States, working at Princeton, Rutgers, New York University, Bryn Mawr College, the University of Chicago and New York's City University.
Many of his most outstanding books stem from the years he spent in exile, including "Los usurpadores" ("The Usurpers") of 1949, in which he examines the immorality of a person subjugating another to his will. "La cabeza del cordero" (The Lamb's Head) is a collection of short stories on similar themes centering on the Spanish Civil War.
Ayala, who settled back in Spain in 1975, the year Franco died, delved into ways of reconciling individual conscience with society and applying ancient moral values to modern times.
Ayala's 100th birthday was celebrated with a year of conferences, seminars and exhibitions that began with a dinner date with the king and queen.
In an interview with The Associated Press shortly before his centenary, Ayala showed himself to be physically fragile but mentally alert.
"I've been a part of the past for the last few years," he said. "There comes a time when calculating age rationally, you know you're not going to get much further."
He is survived by his second wife, Carolyn Richmond, and a daughter from his previous marriage.
Ayala was to be cremated at the San Isidro Cemetery in Madrid.

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