Madrid: Eduardo Mendoza has won Spain`s most lucrative literary prize for a novel set in Madrid on the eve of the country`s devastating civil war.
The Premio Planeta was announced late Friday at a ceremony in Barcelona and carries a (EURO) 601,000 ( USD 846,750) cash award.
Mendoza`s novel ‘Rina de gatos, Madrid 1936’ (Cat Fight, Madrid 1936) is set just before hostilities erupted in what became a three-year conflict.
The plot centres on a British art expert who visits Spain in the increasingly chaotic days before war and discovers a canvas which appears to be a previously unknown Velazquez painting of incalculable value.
Among the real characters in the novel are right-wing politician Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera and Gen. Francisco Franco, who was to become dictator of Spain after the conflict.
"The novel poses readers with the problem of what they would do if faced with those circumstances, which fortunately we aren`t in any more," Mendoza said at a news conference on Saturday.
The prize was founded in 1952 by Planeta, one of Spain`s top publishers, and is open to both Spaniards and Latin Americans.
Previous winners include Nobel laureates for literature Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru and the late Spaniard Camilo Jose Cela, who won the Nobel in 1989.