Mexican writer Sergio Pitol received the Spanish language's most prestigious award, the Cervantes Prize, on Friday, after which he kicked off the yearly marathon reading of Cervantes' masterpiece, Don Quixote.
Spain's King Juan Carlos presented the award to Pitol, 73, during a ceremony in the central university town of Alcala de Henares, birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, the 17th-century author of Don Quixote.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Culture Minister Carmen Calvo were just two of an array of political and literary figures who attended the midday ceremony.
In his acceptance speech, Pitol recalled his life and his contacts with the world of literature.
Pitol said that news of the prize in December came "on a magical day when my life looked to have changed."
"Since that day I have remembered unexpectedly different phases of my life, some radiant, others horrific," he said.
He went on to relate how he was left an orphan at four years old, and fell victim to malaria. He said his grandmother introduced him to the delights of reading, and that by age 12 he already had read Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, was familiar with the authors Jules Verne, Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson.
King Juan Carlos said Pitol's work had enriched the Spanish language.
"Queen (Sofia) joins me in congratulating you, from our hearts and with the greatest appreciation and admiration, for this truly deserved distinction," the king said.
Pitol's well-known titles include Flower Games (Juegos florales), The Parade of Love (El desfile del amor) and The Married Life (La vida conyugal) (1991).
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