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,
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.
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,"
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
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
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
the last years of the Pinochet regime.
"The book was not about the dictatorship," Edwards said. "It is a story
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.