Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo Analysis

Other Literary Forms

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo is known primarily for his philosophical essays, most notably En torno al casticismo (1902; on authentic tradition), 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), Mi religión y otros ensayos breves (1910; my religion and other short essays), Del sentimiento trágico de la vida en los hombres y en los pueblos (1913; The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and in Peoples, 1921), and La agonía del Cristianismo (1931; The Agony of Christianity, 1928, 1960).

Unamuno was, however, active in many other genres; his fiction in particular has been the subject of increasing critical interest. His novels include Paz en la guerra (1897; Peace in War, 1983), 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), and La tía Tula (1921; Tía Tula, 1976). The novella San Manuel Bueno, mártir (1933; Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr, 1956) is one of his finest works. Unamuno is also noted for his short stories.

Unamuno’s poetry includes Poesías (1907; poems), El Cristo de Velázquez (1920; The Christ of Velázquez, 1951), and Rimas de dentro (1923; rhymes from within). His travel books include Paisajes (1902; landscapes) and Por tierras de Portugal y de España (1911; through regions of Portugal and Spain).

Achievements

Though recognized as the leading philosophical thinker of the distinguished group of Spanish writers known as the Generation of 1898 , Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo spurned rigorous methodology in his passionate probing of what he regarded as humanity’s deepest and primary concern: to know what becomes of individual consciousness after death, whether it is immortal or ends in nothingness. Unable or unwilling to accept the Catholic Church’s doctrine on this central issue and yet obsessed with a tremendous desire for personal immortality, he struggled throughout his adult life to build his defenses against what he regarded as the final void. Though reason and the science of his day seemed to deny the Christian belief in personal immortality, man’s transcendental desires and aspirations, what Unamuno often called his “heart,” demanded such immortality. This conflict between logic and sentiment is best expressed in his key work, The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and in Peoples, and reflected in one way or another throughout his writings in different literary genres. For Unamuno, literature was primarily a vehicle for anguished philosophical-religious probings of the final reality of humankind’s being and destiny, and differences among literary genres were insignificant. Anarchic and deeply personalistic in his thinking, Unamuno habitually employed paradox or the opposing of contraries, often through anguished dialogues between personages or within an individual.

Though very much interested in the theater throughout his professional life, Unamuno was never successful as a dramatist. His drama is important, however, because to some extent it anticipated in its themes and in its unadorned stagecraft, or “naked theater,” many of the characteristics of more recent European theater.

Unamuno stands with José Ortega y Gasset, a systematic philosopher nineteen years his junior, as one of the two most powerful Spanish thinkers of the twentieth century. Whereas Ortega cultivated only the essay, Unamuno wrote superbly in several genres, leaving his pronounced and indelible stamp on all, and he is therefore, in a strictly literary sense, the greater of the two.

Other Literary Forms

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo’s works fill sixteen volumes and include plays, several novels, collections of poetry, and hundreds of articles of varying length. His most notable works include the philosophical manifesto Del sentimiento trágico de la vida en los hombres y en los pueblos (1913; The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and in Peoples, 1921), and the literary treatise Cómo se hace una novela (1927, How to Make a Novel, 1976).

Achievements

During his lifetime, Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo emerged as a representative voice of the Spanish people, and his heterodox views led to his exile from 1924 to 1930. A professor of Greek, Unamuno was named lifetime rector of University of Salamanca upon his retirement in 1934 and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1936.

Other literary forms

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (ew-nah-MEW-noh-ee-KEW-goh) wrote extensively in all genres (novel, poetry, short story, drama, and essay). Manuel García Blanco has compiled Unamuno’s works under the title of Obras completas (1959-1964), a collection numbering sixteen volumes, edited with prologues and notes. Only a few articles are missing from this collection, published in Madrid by Vergara Editorial, by special concession of Afrodisio Aguado. A later edition, in ten volumes, has appeared since, but neither edition is definitive.

Achievements

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo achieved distinction as a philosopher, a novelist, a poet, and a scholar. Fluent in many languages, active in public life, he was indeed a protean figure, and his achievements are still being assimilated. Unamuno had important and influential admirers, particularly among French scholars and writers, such as Jean Cassou, Marcel Bataillon, and Pierre Emmanuel. Martin Heidegger read and admired him. Though studies of existentialism done in English have largely neglected him, Unamuno was among the first to recognize the greatness of Søren Kierkegaard and to adapt his ideas to his own philosophy.

For Hispanists, Unamuno stands among the greatest of Spanish writers. That does not mean that he is without detractors. Pío Baroja, a famous contemporary of Unamuno, predicted that Unamuno’s works would not endure. Ramón José Sender, a generation removed from Unamuno, made a similar prediction, and José Ortega y Gasset later added that if Unamuno’s virtues are gigantic, so are his defects. Nevertheless, more than a century after Unamuno’s birth, scholars are still filling volumes in homage to his works, with a circumspect nod at his idiosyncracies.

Bibliography

Callahan, 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...

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