April 24, 2000
Jorge Edwards becomes first Chilean to receive Cervantes Award

                  ALCALA DE HENARES, Spain (AP) -- Chilean writer Jorge Edwards on
                  Monday was presented with the Miguel de Cervantes Award, the most coveted
                  prize for Spanish-language literature.

                  Spanish King Juan Carlos presented the award Monday in Alcala de Henares, the
                  birth town of Miguel de Cervantes, the 16th century Spanish writer best known
                  for his novel "Don Quixote." The award is given yearly for lifetime achievement.

                  Edwards, 69, has written seven novels as well as short stories and essays. His
                  most noted work, "Persona Non Grata," recounts his years as a diplomat in Cuba
                  in the 1970s. In the book, Edwards criticizes the Cuban government, which he
                  says treated him as an unworthy.

                  "I never calculated the consequences of this calling in the beginning," Edwards
                  said in his acceptance speech. "It was]an accidental path."

                  While this year's award marks the first time a Chilean author has won the prize,
                  King Juan Carlos said several others, such as poet Pablo Neruda, have deserved

                  The 1994 Cervantes recipient Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian, said Edwards
                  "really was the person for this prize."

                  The king praised Edwards for his realistic fiction, saying his work is saturated
                  with history. The author, who went into exile in Barcelona during Gen. Augosto
                  Pinochet's Chilean regime, has written essays on the dictatorship as well as a
                  story of Chileans in exile in Paris.

                  His latest work, "El Sueno de la Historia" (The dream of history), is set during
                  the last years of the Pinochet regime.

                  "The book was not about the dictatorship," Edwards said. "It is a story of love
                  and great passion."

                  Edwards recounted how Neruda was a great influence on him. While Edwards
                  served as a diplomat in Paris, the two became friends. In 1993, Edwards wrote
                  his compatriot's biography, "Adios, Poeta" (Goodbye, poet).

                  The Cervantes award was first given in 1976 and previous recipients include
                  Jorge Luis Borges (1979), Octavio Paz (1981), and Vargas Llosa (1994).

                  In 1994, Edwards won the Chilean National Award for Literature.

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.