Miguel de Unamuno: biography of this writer and thinker

Miguel de Unamuno was a Spanish poet, writer, philosopher and politician of worried, rebellious and critical personality with the society that was to live for him. A great Spaniard, he wanted his country to overcome certain attitudes which he attributed as the cause of Spain’s ills.

Never comfortable with the governments in which he lived, Unamuno was condemned, exiled and fired by both kingdoms and dictatorships and republics, despite being a supporter of the Second Spanish Republic.

The Spanish literature of the 20th century cannot be understood without reviewing the figure of this writer, his work, the subjects he addresses and, also, his personality and historical characteristics. here we will address these questions through a biography of Miguel de Unamuno.

    Brief biography of Miguel de Unamuno

    Miguel de Unamuno i Suc was born on September 29, 1864 in Bilbao. He was the third of six children born to Felix de Unamuno, a humble merchant who had made his fortune in Mexico, and his wife Salomé Juice. From an early age, the young Unamuno will have to live two experiences which will mark his character and which will leave him well reflected in the style of his works: the death of his father and the outbreak of the third Carlist war (1872-1876), besieging the city of Bilbao.

    academic training

    In his teenage years, he moved to Madrid to begin his studies in philosophy and letters at the university. At this time it publishes its first article, at the same time as it forms a more intimate and emotional relation with Shell Lizárraga, that would end up being his wife and the mother of his X children.

    In 1883 he finished his university studies and obtained the doctorate with his thesis “Critique of the problem on the origin and prehistory of the Basque race”. After that, Miguel de Unamuno went to the world of work, taking courses and contributing to different newspapers in the country. In addition, it focuses on preparing for exams to obtain institute and university chairs, convened in different cities of Spain to fill vacant positions.

    Teacher in Salamanca

    After several unsuccessful attempts, Unamuno obtained a post as professor of Greek language at the prestigious University of Salamanca. He arrives in this city already married to his wife Concha and lives in several residences for rent. It was at this time that her first child, Fernando, was born. He could move to a house in Gabriel and Galán Square in the same city, Place of birth of Pau, Raimundo, Salomé and Felisa.

    It was during these years that he published several books, introducing his interest in Spain and its destiny. Among the texts that emerged at this time, we can highlight “Environment of Castasticism”, “Peace in the war”, “The Sphinx” and “The Sale”, as well as the possibility of publishing several articles in Spanish and Latin American Press. But to all this good news is added a very bad one: her son Raimundo falls seriously ill, which causes him a deep personal and religious crisis.

    Beginning of the new century

    At the beginning of the 1900 academic year, Uamuno, as a professor, was to deliver the inaugural address. His educational proposals in his speech were so innovative that he would soon be elected rector of the university.. After his appointment, Unamuno moved to the government residence, either to the courtyard side of the schools of the University of Salamanca. Instead, the rest of his children will be born: Josep, Maria, Rafael and Ramon, but it is also there that his son Raimundo dies.

    The management house of the University of Salamanca will see how Miguel de Unamuno writes “Three essays”, “Landscapes”, “Of my country”, “The life of Don Quixote and Sancho”, “Poetry”, “Of the tragic feeling of life “and” Fog “. It will also be this same place in which in 1914 will see how Unamuno is made redundant and must move in the rue des Brodeurs. It was then that he began to show a committed attitude towards Spanish society, starting an intense and active political life.

    During World War I (1914-1918) he showed his support for the Allies against the Germanophiles, Visit to the Italian front with Manuel Azaña and Américo Castro. Unamuno ran for the Republican Party of Gascony at that time. He had no problem dealing with King Alfonso XIII himself, resulting in prosecution for insults to the crown, and he was found guilty, but later pardoned.

      Dictatorship of Primo de Rivera

      When being very against to the monarchy and to the military Directory imposed by Primo de Rivera, Miguel de Unamuno finishes exiled. He first went to Fuerteventura, then ended up fleeing to France, even though he had already been pardoned. He promises not to return to his country until Primo de Rivera leaves the government, a promise he keeps. It shares its exile with other great Spanish personages, like Eduardo Grouse and Gasset and Vicente Blasco Ibáñez.

      Once Primo de Rivera ceased to be in power, Miguel de Unamuno eventually returned to Spain. His return was the apotheosis, passing through Hendaye to arrive at the city of Salamanca, where the university chair recovers, although this time it would be that of History of the Castilian Language. These are years of theatrical production, publishing works such as “L’Altre”, “Ombres de son” and “Medea”.

      Second Republic and last years

      He is running for the municipal elections of the Republican-Socialist coalition, Obtaining a council and proclamation of the Republic from the balcony of the city of Salamanca. He was appointed honorary president of the municipal corporation in perpetuity, president of the Council of Public Education, deputy, rector of the University of Salamanca and later rector for life.

      Also, already at the time of the Second Spanish Republic, he was named honorary citizen of the Republic and was nominated by the Spanish Academy and for the Nobel Prize. However, despite his Republican affiliation, he soon begins to criticize the governmentAdhering to the military uprising of 1936. Although he had been retired since 1934, his antipathies with the Republic led the rebel government of Burgos to re-appoint him rector of the University of Salamanca.

      However, it should be noted that Miguel de Unamuno was neither a fascist nor a Falangist, on the contrary. He soon opposed the insurgents and faced General Millán Astray in the 1936 “Race Day” celebration at the Auditorium of the University of Salamanca. Famous are the words he spoke to his Falangist audience: “You will win, but you will not convince.” for that he ended up being fired, imprisoned in his house on rue Brodadors under police surveillance. He died there suddenly on December 31, 1936, at the age of 72.

      Subjects in Unamuno’s Work

      Miguel de Unamuno has always been a restless and rebellious man, paradoxical and contradictory. Based on his personal life, one can see how he had no objection to confronting the authorities when he didn’t like what they were doing, outside of the monarchy, dictatorship or republic. His individualistic character made him revere himself, not as an egocentric act but rather as a means of expressing and putting his ideas in order. He himself said “I’m talking about myself because he’s the man I have closest”.

      Miguel de Unamuno was an intellectual who cultivated all kinds of his time. His theater, poetry, essays and novels can be included from the two recurring themes of his literary production: the concern for Spain and the meaning of human life. In both themes existential nuances emerge, making Unamuno one of the first modern existentialists in Spain.

      Spain’s problem

      Miguel de Unamuno was a great lover of Spain, which we can understand from what he himself said: “Spain hurts me”; “I am Spanish, Spanish by birth, education, body, mind, language, profession and profession; Spanish above all and above all.” He is interested in his literature, his past and his future, and he seeks to find a solution to the evils which afflicted the spanish company, Stressing the need for a spiritual renewal which, according to him, gets rid of two attitudes deeply rooted in Spanish society: laziness and chronic sluggishness.

      With the intention of capturing the essence of the Spanish in a vivid way, Unamuno traveled through the villages of the country to understand first-hand what made them stand out. He wanted to capture what Spain really was beyond intellectual circles and official history books.

      It was essential for him to learn “intrahistory”, that is to say real and popular history, in order to have a reliable idea of ​​what was the past of Spain. He showed these pretensions and this interest in Spanish in works such as “Entorn de l’casticisme” (1895), where raises the idea of ​​intra-history.

      In addition, his “Life of Don Quixote and Sancho” (1905) is very important, where he affirms that the work of Miguel de Cervantes is the highest expression of the Spanish soul, as well as the dichotomy between madness and reason., Fiction and reality. In “Per lands of Portugal i España” (1911) and “Aventures i visions españoles” (1922), he also shows his concern for the fate of the country.

      Originally, Miguel de Unamuno he considered that the evils which affected Spain would disappear once the country became European, Standing in front of France, Germany or the United Kingdom. However, with the passage the time changes its position, considering that what really had to happen was for Europe to convert to Spanish, it captured some of the best customs of Spain and adopted some of its own attitudes. of the peninsulars.

      The meaning of human life

      The other characteristic theme of Unamuno’s work is his interest in the meaning of human life. As an existentialist writer, he is interested in the man of flesh and blood, delving into the tragic meaning of his existence through his experiences, tragedies, problems and anxieties. In his literature we can see his interest in the immortality of our existence: when we die, do we cease to exist or is there life beyond? Herbert Spencer, Sören Kierkegaard, William James and Henri Bergson influence his work.

      How the personal contradictions and paradoxes of his thought prevented him from being able to develop a coherent philosophical system. he used his writings as a vehicle of expression and also as a kind of therapy to put his ideas in order.. He expresses his personal anguish and his way of thinking works such as “Environment of Casticism” (1895) as well as “My Religion and Other Essays” (1910), “Soliloquies and Conversations” (1911) or “On the sentiment tragique de life among men and among peoples ”(1913).

      main works

      Miguel de Unamuno cultivated all kinds of genres, although novels and essays were his strengths.

      Poetry and theater

      As a poet, Miguel de Unamuno has long been underestimated, even though he is today considered one of the greatest exponents of 20th century Spanish poetry. His poems and his plays bear witness to a great wealth of reflection, deal mainly with intimate, religious and political dramas through character conflicts and his own sensitivity to reality.

      Among the main poems we have “Poetry” (1907), “Rosary of lyrical sonnets” (1911), “The Christ of Velázquez” (1920), “Rhymes of the interior” (1923) and “Romancero of exile “(1928), the latter being a portrait of his experiences on the island of Fuerteventura after being expelled to oppose the government of Miguel Primo de Rivera. After his death, “Posthumous Songbook” was published, a book that collected poems written between 1928 and 1936.

      As for the Unamuno Theater, we have “Phaedra” (1924), “Shadows of Dream” (1931), “The Other” (1932) and “Medea” (1933) and “Brother John” (1934). In this genre, he doesn’t seem to stand out much, as his work was considered to have rather sparse dramatic action and eventually resulted in overly schematic compositions.

      Soap operas

      The novel is Miguel de Unamuno’s strong point, being considered one of the most determined renovators of this genre at the beginning of the XX century. The novel is the main tool of this writer for transmitting his existential conflicts and his personal experiences, having as his first headquarters “Peace in the war” (1897) in which he describes the historical events of the last Carlist war.

      Already entered into the twentieth century, he published his famous “Fog” (1914) which gave birth to a new literary genre founded by himself: the nivolas. “Nivola” is a neologism of Unamuno which he uses to refer to his narrative fiction novels, trying to distance himself from the realistic novels that dominated the literary scene of the 1900s. In “Boira”, Unamuno presents the confrontation of souls and human passions without resorting to landscapes, environments or customs.

      Its most representative level becomes a reference in the literature of the twentieth century for its innovation.. Its protagonist, Augusto Pérez, breaks the fourth wall by rebelling against Unamuno himself. Augustus realizes that he is nothing more than a fictional being, his fate, his experiences and even his feelings are determined by Unamuno’s will. But, also, Augustus reminds the writer that he is also under the will of an entity superior to him: God.

      In 1917 he published “Abel Sánchez” and in 1921 “Aunt Tula”. His masterpiece will arrive in 1931 with “Saint Manuel the Good Martyr”. It is the dramatic story of a rector of a people lost in the hands of God who, given exemplary to his village and manifesting himself as if he were a saint, hides a deep inner tear of doubt about what there is beyond death.

      Special mention is his “Three exemplary novels and a prologue” (1920), considered by some experts to be an autobiographical novel.. It has nothing to do with the facts of his life, but rather his spiritual biography and his essential view of reality. It is the affirmation of their individual identity and the search for the connecting elements that underlie human relationships.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Abellán, José Luis (1964). Miguel de Unamuno in the light of psychology; an interpretation of Unamuno from individual psychology. Doctoral thesis. Madrid: Tecnos.
      • Ruiza, M., Fernández, T. and Tamaro, I. (2004). Biography of Miguel de Unamuno. In Biographies and Lives. The online biographical encyclopedia. Barcelona, ​​Spain). Retrieved from https://www.biografiasyvidas.com/biografia/u/unamuno.htm on September 22, 2020.
      • Garrido Ardila, Juan Antonio (ed.) (2015). The eternal Unamuno. Barcelona: Anthropos

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