John Updike's "Rabbit at Rest," the conclusion of his acclaimed series that began in 1960, has won the award for fiction in the 1990 National Book Critics Circle awards.

" `Rabbit at Rest' brings to a close a work which will stand as one of the major achievements of American fiction in the 20th century," Critics Circle board members said in a statement.The awards are given annually in five categories - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, biography-autobiography and criticism - for new books by American authors published in the United States.

Robert A. Caro's "Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson" won top honors for biography-autobiography. The book - the second in Caro's Johnson biography - chronicles Johnson's political career in the years surrounding World War II.

The winner for non-fiction was Shelby Steele's "The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America."

"Bitter Angel," by Amy Gerstler, won the award in poetry.

Arthur C. Danto's "Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present" received the award for criticism. Danto is art critic for The Nation.

Updike won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction with the third work in his four-part Rabbit series, "Rabbit Is Rich."

The central character, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, faces death in the final work. "Angstrom's sickness unto death parallels and brilliantly illumines America's own . . . decline," the board said of "Rabbit at Rest."

The Critics Circle also awarded a citation for excellence in reviewing to Molly Giles, a free-lance critic and assistant professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University.

Founded in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle is a non-profit organization of 580 book critics and book review editors.

An award ceremony is scheduled March 14 at New York University.

- IN CUBA, Argentine writers dominated the 1991 Casa de las Americas literary awards in Havana, winning prizes for the best novel and theater piece and a special prize for the best general work.

The Cuban publishing house, which specializes in promoting Latin American literature, awarded the prize for best novel to Antonio Elio Brailovsky for his work "Esta Maldita Lujuria." Eduardo Rovner won the theater prize for his "Volvio una Noche" while an essay by Graciela Scheines, "Las Metaforas del Fracaso. Sudamerica, Geografia del Desencuentro?", was awarded the special "Nuestra America" award. Venezuela's Susana Rotker won the literary essay prize for her work "Fundacion de una Escritura: Las Cronicas de Jose Marti." - Reuters