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Spanish novelist and essayist Camilo Jose Cela, who drew on his experiences in the Spanish Civil War to produce some of his country's most compelling literary works, was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature Thursday.

Cela, 73, was cited by the Swedish Academy for his "rich and intensive prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man's vulnerability."Cela's best known work was the 1942 novel "The Family of Pascual Duarte," which was censored and banned in his native country. The book was a first-person account of a murderer awaiting execution.

His masterpiece is considered "The Hive," which captures three days in the life of Madrid four years after the civil war.

Cela, a longtime member of the Spanish Academy, a literary group, lives in Guadalajara, a small town northeast of Madrid. He has written 10 novels among his 70 works of travelogues, short stories and poetry.

The Swedish Academy called Cela "the leading figure in Spain's literary renewal during the postwar era."

It said, "Cela is a restless spirit," who often expresses himself "in an old Spanish tradition of hilarious grotesqueness."

Sture Allen, the Academy's secretary, said Cela was "provocative and innovative" in both his form and subject matter.

"The Family of Pascual Duarte" was probably the most widely read Spanish novel since Don Quixote, the Academy said.

The prize this year is worth about $469,000.

Cela was the first Spaniard to win the Nobel prize since 1977, when it was awarded to poet Vicente Aleixandre. Cela was chosen from about 150 candidates, Allen said.

As publisher of a literary magazine, Cela also was credited for providing a forum for young writers "during the years of hardship," a reference to the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco.

Cela was born May 11, 1916, into a middle class family that counted among its forebears Spanish aristocrats and English pirates.