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Argentine author Tomas Eloy Martinez

Argentine journalist and novelist Tomas Eloy Martinez, 75, who was exiled from Argentina in 1975 after narrowly escaping a paramilitary death squad that came for him while he was dining at a fashionable Buenos Aires restaurant, died Sunday of cancer.

He was best known for The Peron Novel (1985) and Santa Evita (1995), fictionalized accounts of the lives of former Argentinian President Juan Domingo Peron and his second wife, Eva (Evita!). The latter was translated into more than 30 languages and earned a glowing review in The Washington Post:

"'Santa Evita' is a rich and delicious book -- you could cut it down in thick, dark slices and top it with whipped cream," wrote Carolyn See in 1996. Martinez "means to give us in his novel 'Argentina,' a country beset by gloom and misfortune and yet lovely beyond words."

Not to mention words of praise from fellow authors, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

"Finally, this is the novel I always wanted to read," reads a blurb by Marquez on the cover of "Santa Evita."

Mr. Martinez lived in Venezuela after his exile, returning briefly to Argentina in 1983 before moving to the United States, where he taught for several years during the 1980s at the University of Maryland. From 1995 until his death, he was a professor at Rutgers University and director of the university's Center for Latin American Studies.

We're working on a full obituary of Mr. Martinez and after reading this appreciation of his classes by a former student, we're eager to hear from others who remember his work at Maryland and Rutgers.

By Emma Brown  |  February 2, 2010; 6:42 PM ET
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