I'll soon be back in the fray," Spain's King Juan Carlos said Monday in his first appearance before the media since before he underwent back surgery six weeks ago.

The press were allowed to document the monarch's meeting with Cervantes Prize recipient Jose Manuel Caballero Bonald.

"You're doing better than I am," Juan Carlos joked to Caballero Bonald, whom he stood to receive accompanied by Queen Sofia at the table set up for the meeting.

He congratulated Caballero Bonald for the prize he will receive Tuesday at a ceremony to be presided over by Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia.

"I would love to be like you now..." the king said in a casual tone, and when the 86-year-old writer laughed and said that he himself was now "coming to the end," the king smiled and said that "I was coming to the end, but I'm recovering by making the effort."

With this audience, the king returned to his official public activities at the Zarzuela Palace, where he was previously limited to office tasks following his operation, though for him to make an appearance outside his residence will possibly take until May 17, when he will attend the final of the Copa del Rey soccer tourney.

Meanwhile he will continue with his rehabilitation program at the Zarzuela with intensive two-hour sessions every morning and afternoon.

After the king's surgical operation in early March, the neurosurgeon who operated on him estimated that it would take Juan Carlos between two and six months to recover completely. EFE