Spanish writer Almudena Grandes was awarded the 2011 Elena Poniatowska Ibero-American Novel Prize on Wednesday for "Ines y la alegria" (Ines and the Joy), which explores various episodes of Spain's 1936-1939 civil war, the Mexico City government said.

Mexico City's culture secretary, Elena Cepeda, made the announcement in a press conference at the capital's Museum of the City of Mexico.

Grandes, 51, beat out more than 40 authors from eight Ibero-American countries and the United States to win this year's award, which is accompanied by a cash prize of 500,000 pesos (around $37,600).

She also became the first foreigner to win the prize, in its fourth edition this year.

According to the jury, composed of Uruguayan poet and critic Ida Vitale and Mexicans Monica Lavin and Jorge Hernandez, Grandes' novel is a "superb narrative work firmly in the tradition of (Benito Perez Galdos), written despite all obstacles and defying the general trend of our times on the part of both writer and reader to be in a hurry."

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard will hand out the prize Friday at the inauguration of the 11th edition of the Mexico City Book Fair.

The prize was established in 2007 and named in honor of acclaimed author, journalist and social activist Elena Poniatowska, a naturalized Mexican who was born on May 19, 1932, in Paris.

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