King of Spain Felipe VI presented on Thursday the award to the author Eduardo Mendoza for his body of work, including many books which are set in his native Barcelona and which provide a historical accounting of the city.
The ceremony took place in the central town of Alcala de Henares, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, author of "Don Quixote."
Culture Minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Mendoza's use of irony, parody and comedy continued Cervantes' style from some 400 years ago.
After studying law and working as an interpreter at the United Nations in New York City, Mendoza published his first novel in 1975. "La verdad sobre el caso Savolta" (The Truth About the Savolta Case) is a thriller that takes place in the Savolta weapons manufacturer and includes anarchists and a violent underworld.
Reinventor of the crime novel
The 74-year-old author's humorous take on the detective novel ushered in a new era of storytelling in Spanish literature. His is a unique voice, which has won many fans even in translation.
His other works include "La ciudad de los prodigios" (The City of Marvels, 1986), "El Año del Diluvio" (The Year of the Flood), a fictional look at post-war Spain and "Una comedia ligera" (A Light Comedy).
A five-book saga parodied detective novels and Gothic narratives along with two science-fiction novels round off his oeuvre.
The Cervantes Prize, announced by Spain's Education and Culture Minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo last November, comes with an endowment of 125,000 euros ($132,000).
Previous recipients of the Cervantes Prize include Mario Vargas Llosa and Juan Marsé.
ct/kbm/db/eg (AP, dpa)