In Miguel de Unamuno’s Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr (also known as Saint Emmanuel the Good, Martyr), the titular protagonist is a priest who lives an outward life of devotion to church and community while struggling with an inner life filled with doubt about a tenet of his Roman Catholic faith: a belief in life after death. The novella is a story within a story. The narrator, Angela Carballino, more than fifty years old, writes down the secret of Don Manuel’s inner life when she hears that the local bishop seeks to canonize him. She never intends the bishop to see the manuscript that she calls a “confession.” The epilogue reveals that it was mysteriously given to Unamuno.
Angela first recalls herself at ten and Don Manuel at thirty-seven, the new pastor of the Roman Catholic Church and a newcomer to the village who gave up a brilliant career in the Church to help his widowed sister care for her sons. When Angela returns from a convent school in the city five years later, Don Manuel is as necessary to the village as the mountain and the lake that border it. He tirelessly mends marriages as well as torn clothes and attends the sick and dying as well as the celebrating. He is especially kind to the mentally disabled Blasillo. Don Manuel’s voice moves the villagers, especially during Mass on Good Friday, because it sounds as if it were Jesus Christ speaking. As Blasillo wanders the village, he imitates Don Manuel’s voice speaking the most moving words of Christ’s Passion: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” However, each time the congregation recites the Creed, Don Manuel’s voice disappears on the lines about belief in the resurrection.
Angela becomes his “deaconess.” She helps him with his pastoral duties in...
(The entire section is 726 words.)