Philip Roth, a major U.S. literary figure of the 20th and early 21st centuries, was named here Wednesday as the recipient of this year's Prince of Asturias Award for Literature.

Born in Newark, New Jersey on March 19, 1933, Roth is the second son of American-born parents and the grandson of European Jews who emigrated to the United States in the 19th century.

The only living writer whose work is being published in its entirety by The Library of America, Roth has won the United States' most important literary awards: the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Faulkner Award, the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

The jury, headed by the director of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, Jose Manuel Blecua, hailed Roth's "complex view of contemporary reality torn between reason and feeling, such as the sign of the times and the sense of unease about the present."

It placed the 79-year-old novelist's work in the tradition of John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud.

In his self-styled "American Trilogy," consisting of "American Pastoral" (1998), "I Married a Communist" (2000) and "The Human Stain" (2001), all featuring one of Roth's best-known characters, Nathan Zuckerman, as protagonist, the author uses bitter irony and draws on his capacity for scrutinizing the human soul - analyzing the pain, cruelty and loneliness that lies therein - in his dramatizations of postwar American life.

This marks the 12th-straight year in which the Prince of Asturias Foundation has conferred its literature award on authors born outside the Spanish-speaking world. The last Spanish or Latin American writer to receive the prize was Guatemala's Augusto Monterroso in 2000.

"I am delighted to receive the Prince of Asturias Award and thrilled that the jury should have found my work worthy of such an honor," Roth said in a press release distributed in New York.

At the same time, he said it was "particularly poignant" to have received the news only a few weeks after the death of Mexican author Carlos Fuentes, his "dear friend" and "generous colleague for many decades" who received this same award in 1994.

"I wish he were alive so that I could hear his mellifluous voice at the other end of the phone offering me congratulations in his courtly way," Roth said.

Other past winners of the Asturias literature prize have included Arthur Miller, Amos Oz, Mario Vargas Llosa, Juan Rulfo and Camilo Jose Cela.

The honor carries a cash award of 50,000 euros (about $62,730), a sculpture by Joan Miro that represents and symbolizes the awards, a diploma and an insignia bearing the Prince of Asturias Foundation's coat of arms.

The literature prize is one of eight Prince of Asturias Awards given out annually.

The awards for the arts, social sciences, communication and humanities and technical and scientific research were handed out earlier this year, while the winners of the prizes for sports, international cooperation and concord are still to be announced.

The prizes, which Spain's crown prince will hand out at a ceremony in the fall in Oviedo, are regarded as the Ibero-American world's equivalent of the Nobels. EFE