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Antonio Muñoz Molina wins Prince of Asturias Letters Prize

Novelist and essayist becomes first Spaniard to take honor in 15 years

The novelist and essayist Antonio Muñoz Molina. Ampliar foto
The novelist and essayist Antonio Muñoz Molina. EL PAÍS

Novelist and essayist Antonio Muñoz Molina on Wednesday became the first Spaniard in 15 years to be awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Letters.

The jury decided to honor the 57-year-old author, who was chosen over names such as Irish writer John Banville and Japan's Haruki Murakami, for "a body of work that admirably assumes the condition of the intellectual committed to his time."

For the last few days, the jury had been considering the need to hand the award to a Spaniard. The last Spanish national to win the Letters prize was Francisco Ayala in 1998 and no Spanish-speaking author has received the honor since Guatemala's Augusto Monterroso won 13 years ago.

"When one receives a prize, one feels very happy and when one doesn't, one doesn't," Muñoz Molina told a press conference in Madrid on Wednesday. "But I don't think that the career of a writer can be measured by the prizes they receive. One can be very good and not win prizes and one can be bad and win them."

When one receives a prize, one feels very happy and when one doesn't, one doesn't"

Born in Úbeda, Jaén province, in 1956, Muñoz Molina came to attention with his first novel Beatus Ille in 1986. After winning the National Novel Prize for the noirish Winter in Lisbon in 1987 and again in 1991 for El jinete polaco, in 1995 he became the youngest person to be admitted into the Spanish Royal Academy at the age of 39. For some time he has divided his time between Madrid and New York, alongside his wife, the author and EL PAÍS columnist Elvira Lindo, whom he married in 1994.

Muñoz Molina found himself embroiled by controversy earlier this year when he was named the winner of the 2013 Jerusalem Prize. The author chose to ignore calls for him to reject the award on the grounds that accepting it would constitute a support of Israeli policy in the occupied territories.

"I have thought about it very carefully and do not plan to reject a prize that is given by an international book fair, and has been accepted by writers I admire such as [J. M.] Coetzee, Ian McEwan, Susan Sontag and Jorge Semprún," he concluded.

Muñoz Molina is set to receive the Letters prize in a ceremony in Oviedo in October.