If you already know C, Bash and AWK, you almost know Perl. There is only a little you have to learn, as Perl heavily borrows from all the three.
Cleanness and direct readability are subjective. Popularity is fugacious.
Perl also has a new version in use (it's 5.18).
Pick the language whose community makes you more comfortable. You probably will need its help in the beginning, sometimes.
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