- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MADRID (AP) - Spanish author Ana Maria Matute has won Spain’s 2010 Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s top literary honor, the Culture Ministry said Wednesday.

Matute, 85, is ranked as one of the country’s best post-Civil War writers. Her work often centers on that conflict, which took place from 1936-39.

Among her most popular novels are “Los Abel” (The Abels), “Los Soldados Lloran de Noche” (Soldiers Cry By Night), “La Trampa” (The Trap), which portray the era and atmosphere during the Spanish Civil War.

Known for her lyrical style, Matute’s novels deal with the lives of children and adolescents, highlighting with sadness such feelings as betrayal and isolation.

“I take the prize as recognition, if not for the quality of the work at least for the effort and total dedication of my life,” Matute said at a press conference after winning the prize.

“I am happy, enormously happy,” she said.

Referring to the postwar dictatorship of late Gen. Francisco Franco, she said, “Spain was very closed to the world, especially intellectually. The poor ones who had the courage to write came in for criticism, and often maliciously.”

Matute has also been praised for her children’s books and young adult novels, including “Los Ninos Tontos” (The Stupid Children), and “El Verdadero Final de La Bella Durmiente” (The True Story of Sleeping Beauty).

Matute is only the third woman to win the 35-year-old award, after Spain’s Maria Zambrano in 1988 and Cuba’s Dulce Maria Loynaz in 1992. She also won Spain’s National Literature Award for Chilren’s and Young People’s Literature in 1984 and Spain’s National Literature Award in 2007.

She is a member of the Royal Spanish Language Academy.

The Cervantes is comparable to a Nobel Prize for Spanish literature. A euro125,000 ($166,000) cash stipend accompanies the award.

The prize is presented annually on April 23 by King Juan Carlos in Alcala de Henares, the birthplace of “Don Quixote” author Miguel de Cervantes.

Mexican writer Jose Emilio Pacheco was last year’s winner.

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