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MADRID (AP) — Javier Marías, Spain’s most prestigious novelist of the past half century, has died, his publisher said Sunday. He was 70.

Spanish news agency EFE reported that Marías passed away in a hospital after not recovering from a lung infection.

Marías was the author of 15 novels, translations and collections of his weekly newspaper columns. His best known novels include “Corazón tan blanco” (“Heart So White”), “Todas las almas” (“All Souls), and “Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí” (“Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me”). Many of his works have been translated into English and other languages.

He was considered for years to be the leading Spanish candidate to win the Nobel Prize for Literature since Camilo José Cela was awarded the honor in 1989.

“(This is) a sad day for Spanish literature,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted. “Javier Marías, one of the greatest writers of our age, has left us. His immense and talented body of work will be fundamental for Spanish literature. My condolences for his family and friends in these difficult moments.”

Marías was elected to Spain’s Royal Academy, the nation’s highest literary and linguistic authority, in 2006. Winner of several international fiction prizes, he was professor of Spanish literature and translation at Oxford and at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in the 1980s.