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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
Arthur Miller gets Spanish honour
Arthur Miller
Miller: Has been a critic of US governments
Veteran playwright Arthur Miller has become the first United States writer to win Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature.

The judging panel described Miller, whose works include The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, as "the undisputed master of modern drama".

He has conveyed... the anxieties, the conflicts and the aspirations of contemporary society

Grand prize jury
The award, worth 50,000 euros (/31,000) had, until 1999, always been awarded to those writing in the Spanish language.

It was established in 1980 with the backing of the heir to the Spanish throne, Prince Felipe, after whom it is named.

The judges also praised Miller, 86, for being a "fierce" political and social activist, crediting his attacks on US policy over the decades.

"With an independence of spirit and remarkable critical sense, he has conveyed from the stage the anxieties, the conflicts and the aspirations of contemporary society," the 15-member grand prize jury said.

Arthur Miller with Marilyn Monroe
Miller was married to Marilyn Monroe for five years
Miller wrote a letter in Spanish to Spain's consul-general in New York, saying he was "especially pleased" to receive the award from Spain, where his works have always been appreciated.

He has been writing since the 1930s, and made his breakthrough when 1949's Death of a Salesman won a Pulitzer prize.

Four years later, The Crucible, set in 1692 at the time of the Salem witch trials, was seen as an allegory for Senator McCarthy's Un-American Activities Committee.

"He attacked American anti-humanism, courted Marxism, only to then criticise it," the prize's judging panel said.

"He was a prominent opponent of the McCarthy witch hunt, and denounced American intervention in Korea and Vietnam."

He was denied a passport by his own government in 1954 because of suspected support for communists.

A five-year marriage to Marilyn Monroe ended in 1961.

Previous winners

More recently, he described the 11 September attacks as part of a "war against humanity", but later raised concerns about emergency measures introduced by the US.

Only two other authors who do not write in Spanish have ever won the Prince of Asturias Prize.

UK author Doris Lessing won in 2001, while it was awarded to German novelist Guenter Grass in 1999.

In 1991, the winner was "the people of Puerto Rico... for having declared Spanish the official language of their country".

Portuguese writer Antonio Lobo Antunes and Argentina's Ernesto Sabato were among the other 23 nominees, from 15 countries, on the 2002 shortlist.

See also:

26 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Connecting with Arthur Miller
02 Jun 99 | Europe
Grass wins literary award
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