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)
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
Rosario de sonetos líricos, 1911
El Cristo de Velázquez, 1920 (The Christ of Velázquez, 1951)
Rimas de dentro, 1923
Romancero del destierro, 1928
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.
Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo
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.