Authors: Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Spanish novelist, playwright, poet, and philosopher

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Paz en la guerra, 1897 (Peace in War, 1983)

Amor y pedagogía, 1902

Niebla, 1914 (Mist: A Tragicomic Novel, 1928)

Abel Sánchez: Una historia de pasión, 1917 (Abel Sánchez, 1947)

Tres novelas ejemplares y un prólogo, 1920 (Three Exemplary Novels and a Prologue, 1930)

La tía Tula, 1921 (Tía Tula, 1976)

San Manuel Bueno, mártir, 1931 (Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr, 1956)

Dos novelas cortas, 1961 (James Russell Stamm and Herbert Eugene Isar, editors)

Short Fiction:

El espejo de la muerte, 1913

Soledad y otros cuentos, 1937

Abel Sánchez, and Other Stories, 1956


La esfinge, wr. 1898, pr. 1909

La venda, wr. 1899, pb. 1913

La difunta, pr. 1910

El pasado que vuelve, wr. 1910, pr. 1923

Fedra, wr. 1910, pr. 1918 (Phaedra, 1959)

La princesa doña Lambra, pb. 1913

Soledad, wr. 1921, pr. 1953

Raquel encadenada, wr. 1921, pr. 1926

El otro, wr. 1926, pr., pb. 1932 (The Other, 1947)

Sombras de sueño, pb. 1930

El hermano Juan: O, El mundo es teatro, wr. 1927, pb. 1934

Teatro completo, pb. 1959, 1973


Poesías, 1907

Rosario de sonetos líricos, 1911

El Cristo de Velázquez, 1920 (The Christ of Velázquez, 1951)

Rimas de dentro, 1923

Teresa, 1924

Romancero del destierro, 1928

Poems, 1952

Cancionero: Diario poético, 1953 (partial translation as The Last Poems of Miguel de Unamuno, 1974


De la enseñanza superior en España, 1899

Nicodemo el fariseo, 1899

Tres ensayos, 1900

En torno al casticismo, 1902

De mi país, 1903

Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho, según Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, explicada y comentada por Miguel de Unamuno, 1905 (The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho According to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Expounded with Comment by Miguel de Unamuno, 1927)

Recuerdos de niñez y de mocedad, 1908

Mi religión y otros ensayos breves, 1910

Soliloquios y conversaciones, 1911 (Essays and Soliloquies, 1925)

Contra esto y aquello, 1912

Del sentimiento trágico de la vida en los hombres y en los pueblos, 1913 (The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Peoples, 1921)

L’Agonie du Christianisme, 1925 (in French; in Spanish as La agonía del Cristianismo, 1931; The Agony of Christianity, 1928, 1960)

Cómo se hace una novela, 1927 (How to Make a Novel, 1976)

La ciudad de Henoc, 1941

Cuenca ibérica, 1943

Paisajes del alma, 1944

La enormidad de España, 1945

Visiones y commentarios, 1949


Obras completas, 1959-1964 (16 volumes)


Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (ew-nah-MEW-noh ee HEW-goh) is one of the most significant and controversial figures in the history of modern thought. He was known primarily as an essayist at the beginning of his career, but later criticism has focused on his renovation of the novel and on his poetry. Although he has become inseparably associated with the area of Castile, especially Salamanca, Unamuno was a Basque, born in Bilbao on September 29, 1864. His father, a baker, who died when Unamuno was only six years old, had settled in that city upon his return from Mexico, where he had hoped to win fame and fortune. In his first novel, Peace in War, Unamuno admittedly describes himself in his portrayal of the young orphan, Pachico, some of whose most vivid memories were of the 1874 Carlist siege and bombardment of Bilbao.{$I[AN]9810000727}{$I[A]Unamuno y Jugo, Miguel de}{$S[A]Jugo, Miguel de Unamuno y;Unamuno y Jugo, Miguel de}{$I[geo]SPAIN;Unamuno y Jugo, Miguel de}{$I[tim]1864;Unamuno y Jugo, Miguel de}

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo

(Library of Congress)

A philologist by training, Unamuno in 1891 accepted the post of professor of Greek and Romance philology at the University of Salamanca. Except for his years in exile, Unamuno would never leave the university, which he considered one of the two safe and stable components of his life. The other was his marriage to Concepción (Concha) Lizárraga, which lasted for forty-three years; the couple had nine children.

Unamuno was one of the leaders of the famous literary group known as the “generation of ’98.” Using Spain’s defeat in the Spanish-American War as a rallying point, writers such as Antonio Machado, Pío Baroja, José Martinez Ruiz, and Unamuno tried to analyze the reasons underlying Spain’s decline and provide a philosophical framework for its regeneration in the twentieth century. In En torno al casticismo (on authenticity) Unamuno first developed his theory of “intrahistory,” the cultural, unchanging base of a people, its authentic identity as compared with the trivial facts and figures of recorded “history.”

Spain as a theme dominates Unamuno’s early essays and poetry, but in 1904, the prolonged illness and death of his son Raimundo provoked a spiritual crisis that was to influence profoundly all Unamuno’s life and later work. Long branded as a political troublemaker, Unamuno now became known as a religious heretic as his inner doubts and fears became the obsession of his public writings. The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Peoples, praised as one of the masterworks of twentieth century thought, is Unamuno’s manifesto of a philosophy of struggle in a world where humankind’s longing for meaning and faith clashes with cold rationality and science. This preoccupation with the metaphysical dilemmas of the twentieth century has led to Unamuno’s inclusion as a precursor of existentialism.

In his search for an effective vehicle in which to describe the essence of humankind, Unamuno turned to the narrative and the stage. Novels such as Abel Sánchez and Mist, which in its famous confrontation scene between character and creator anticipated Luigi Pirandello’s play Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (pr., pb. 1921; Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1922), not only solidified Unamuno’s place in vanguard literary circles but also earned for him a steadily growing reading public. Therefore, his deportation from Spain in 1924, motivated by his strident criticism of the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivero, caused an immediate outcry in the international literary and diplomatic community. His return in 1930, after more than five years in exile, was a personal triumph. He was reappointed rector of Salamanca and elected as deputy to the Cortes, the Spanish parliament. In 1934 he was named lifetime rector of the University of Salamanca but suffered the double blow of the death of his wife and one of his children. Critical of the indecisiveness of the Republic, at first he had supported General Francisco Franco, but he soon became one of the general’s most outspoken critics. Dismissed from his post, Unamuno died, during virtual house arrest by the angered Franco, on December 31, 1936.

Unamuno’s plays consist of philosophy set into dialogue. A reading of them is better than their performance. His best-known drama, The Other, with identical twins as protagonists, reveals his complete rejection of any final answer even in a work of fiction. One brother kills the other and, driven to suicide by remorse, takes to the grave the secret of his own identity and that of his victim. Unamuno believed that humankind was adrift in a sea of contradictions and that in order to arrive at the vital core, it was necessary to strip away all the layers of pseudocivilization and intellectualism. The constant conflicts between death and immortality, reason and faith, science and life, and reality and illusion torment Unamuno’s man of flesh and blood (carne y hueso). Such dualities can never be resolved, and Unamuno’s work, therefore, is a study in unanswered questions and contradiction. Labeled a heretic, he yet could write one of the finest religious poems in the Spanish language, The Christ of Velázquez, a series of meditations on aspects of the famous painting of the crucified Christ. Frustrated at his country’s apparent inertia and subjugation to the past, in 1898 Unamuno exclaimed that Don Quixote must die so that Spain, rid of madness, could be set free to face the future, but, almost immediately, he completely reversed his opinion and eulogized the knight as the authentic living symbol of Spain’s past, present, and future. In Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr, the philosopher who scorned unquestioning acceptance presents a hero-priest who, himself unable to believe, strives to preserve the innocent faith of his people.

Unamuno’s place as one of the dominant thinkers of twentieth century literature and philosophy has never seriously been challenged, though there has been harsh criticism of the quality of his fiction and his poetry and of the relevance of his philosophic writings. Intense and relentless, Unamuno himself was never objective, and the same can be said of much of the early evaluation of his work. Critics, many of them supporters of Unamuno’s contemporary José Ortega y Gasset, charged that Unamuno was devoted only to a cult of his own personality and that what had the appearance of learned commentary was, in reality, anarchic indulgence. Criticism also was divided along lines of political affiliation. Called a “bad son of Spain” by those who resented his constant attacks, after his death he became a symbol of resistance to the Franco dictatorship. Detractors also derided the harshness and lack of musicality of his verse and ridiculed its drumming cadence, devoid of any pretense of polish.

However, Unamuno believed that he would be remembered primarily as a poet, and late twentieth century criticism has indeed affirmed the value of his verse. His sonnets, above all, have come to be regarded as examples of the finest in all Hispanic poetry. A growing awareness of Unamuno’s role in the development of existentialism has encouraged a revival of interest in his novels and essays, and his reputation has been enhanced by the number of major writers, such as James Baldwin and Jorge Luis Borges, who have confessed their debt to him. It must be admitted, however, that alongside the positive reevaluation, there still exists vehement criticism. This debate would have pleased Unamuno, who wrote to provoke and incite and who abhorred indifference.

BibliographyCallahan, David. “The Early Reception of Miguel de Unamuno in England, 1907-1939.” Modern Language Review 91, no. 2 (April, 1996): 382. In 1936, Miguel de Unamuno came to England to be awarded honorary degrees by the Universities of London, Oxford, and Cambridge. Although he was referred to by a wide variety of writers in different contexts, Unamuno never became of any deep significance in England.Ch’oe, Chae-Sok. Greene and Unamuno: Two Pilgrims to La Mancha. New York: Peter Lang, 1990. This comparison of the Christian fiction of Unamuno and Graham Greene sheds light on the religious themes employed by Unamuno in his dramatic works. Includes bibliography and index.Ellis, Robert Richmond. The Tragic Pursuit of Being: Unamuno and Sartre. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1988. This work compares and contrasts the existentialism revealed in the works of Unamuno and Jean-Paul Sartre. Includes bibliography and index.Fox, Arturo A. El Edipo en Unamuno y el espejo de Lacan. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001. Fox delves into the writer’s psyche through a psychoanalytic approach to representative works. Fox’s analyses of several of Unamuno’s works was inspired by Jacques Lacan. In Spanish.Hansen, Keith W. Tragic Lucidity: Discourse of Recuperation in Unamuno and Camus. New York: Peter Lang, 1993. A comparison of the political and social views of Unamuno and Albert Camus, as evidenced in their literary works. Includes bibliography.Jurkevich, Gayana. The Elusive Self: Archetypal Approaches to the Novels of Miguel de Unamuno. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1991. A psychological study of selected works by Unamuno. Includes bibliographical references and index.Jurkevich, Gayana. “Unamuno’s Intrahistoria and Jung’s Collective Unconscious: Parallels, Convergences, and Common Sources.” Comparative Literature 43, no. 1 (Winter, 1991): 43. Jung and Unamuno are compared to develop an understanding of the relationship between Unamuno’s “Intrahistoria” and Jung’s collective unconscious. Jurkevich argues that Unamuno anticipated some of the most fundamental teachings of depth psychology.Nozick, Martin. Miguel de Unamuno. New York: Twayne, 1971. A basic biography of Unamuno that covers his life and works. Includes bibliography.Ouimette, Victor. Reason Aflame: Unamuno and the Heroic Will. Yale Romantic Studies 2d ser., vol. 24. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1974. Presents an inner logic in Unamuno’s thought centered on his concept of heroic fulfillment as the goal of human existence.Round, Nicholas G., ed. Re-reading Unamuno. Glasgow, Scotland: University of Glasgow Department of Hispanic Studies, 1989. This collection of papers from a conference on Unamuno provides literary criticism of his works. Includes bibliographies.Rubia Barcia, José, and M. A. Zeitlin, eds. Unamuno: Creator and Creation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967. A collection of transcripts of lectures from a program commemorating the centennial of the birth of Miguel de Unamuno. Contains valuable biographical material and critical studies. Includes bibliographical references.Sinclair, Alison. Uncovering the Mind: Unamuno, the Unknown, and the Vicissitudes of Self. New York: Manchester University Press, 2002. An examination of the fictional works of Unamuno in respect to his portrayal of the self. Includes bibliography and index.Wyers, Frances. Miguel de Unamuno, the Contrary Self. London: Tamesis, 1976. A look at the image of self in the literary works of Unamuno. Includes bibliography.
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