In light of his winning this year’s Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, John Banville reveals that his novels are more popular in Spain than they are in Ireland.

Speaking to Pat Kenny today on Newstalk, Banville revealed that the Spanish win had surprised him. After hearing that he had won, the Wexford writer learned that the judges discussed who they would award the prize to for two days. He also discovered that they numbered about 12.

“I thought it was couple of people meeting over a cup of coffee and deciding.. 'oh we’ll give it to Banville',” he declared.

He is the first Irish author to receive this major European prize, conferred on those “whose literary work represents an outstanding contribution to universal literature.”

The prize includes a Joan Miró sculpture and a cash prize of €50,000. The award will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo at a ceremony presided over by the prince of Asturias (who has since become the King of Spain.)

He has no idea why Spain takes to Banville, and why his Benjamin Black crime novels are even bigger in that country than they are in Ireland. “ Don’t ask me why. . Spain and ireland I suppose, dark history, Catholicism, civil wars. Perhaps they see something of their own past in the Benjamin Black books, but they are tremendously popular down there. “

The 67-year old writer loves meeting his readers, as he had done at the Dalkey Writers Festival over the weekend. “There is a peculiar tender relationship between reader and write. First of all I can see the disappointment in the women’s eyes when they look at me and say “Oh God, he’s much shorter and older and far uglier than I expected he was going to be. But once they get over that, it’s alright.”