Unamuno y Jugo, Miguel de
UNAMUNO Y JUGO, MIGUEL DE
Spanish author and philosopher b. Bilbao, of Basque parentage, Sept. 29, 1864; d. Salamanca, Dec. 31, 1936. After graduating (1883) from the University of Madrid, he was first professor of Greek (1891) at the University of Salamanca, then rector (1901), a post he held until dismissed (1914) because of his criticism of King Alfonso XIII. In 1924 he was exiled to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands because of his hostility to Premier Primo de Rivera. He escaped to Paris after a few months and remained in exile despite official offers of amnesty, settling in the Basque region of France and continuing his verbal attack upon the Spanish government.
When Rivera fell (1930), Unamuno returned to Spain. Alfonso abdicated in 1931, and the new Republican government reappointed Unamuno rector of Salamanca. He served as deputy to the Spanish Cortes from 1931 to 1933, but at the outbreak of the Civil War (1936) sided with General Franco's Nationalist movement. The Popular Front government of Manuel Azaña dismissed him from his rectorship, but in August 1936 he was quickly reappointed by the Nationalists. He soon quarreled with them also, and remained intensely critical of both sides until his death.
Unamuno's first novel, Paz en la guerra (1897), was inspired by childhood memories of the Second Carlist War, especially the bombardment of Bilbao in 1874. Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho (1905), a running commentary on Cervantes' great novel, is one of Unamuno's most important works. It is his contention that the two heroes, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, soon developed their own individuality—or reality—in the novel and took over the story from Cervantes. Unamuno admires above all the knight's dedication to a life of struggle in accord with his ideals. Niebla (1914) centers on the idea that just as a flesh-and-blood man, once created, has a measure of free will, so an author can create a character, but in a sense may not completely control him, for the personage must follow his own inner logic and thus has autonomy to make his own decisions.
Unamuno once considered calling his novels nivolas because they are stripped of all nonessentials and concentrate on a few protagonists—or "agonists," as he would say—and their intimate passions and conflicts. A most successful use of this technique is manifest in Abel Sanchez (1917), a story of jealousy between two lifelong friends.
Unamuno's chief philosophical work, Del sentimiento trágico de la vida (1913), reveals strong influence by German Protestant theologians and wide familiarity with the work of Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Kierkegaard. But Unamuno's philosophy is highly personal and grows out of the clash between his strong desire to believe in immortality and his inability to find logical justification for it: "I need the immortality of my soul; the indefinite continuance of my individual consciousness I need; without it, without faith in this, I cannot live, and I am tormented by my doubt and inability to believe that I can attain it." On this inner torment Unamuno builds his philosophy of struggle, for he felt himself most alive when the conflict was strongest. Essential to his philosophy is his recognition of a moral imperative. He subscribes not only to the Christian concept of loving one's neighbor but also to the need for moral integrity.
In the short novel, San Manuel Bueno y martir y historias más (1933), Unamuno's thought seems to change. It is the story of a priest who, though utterly dedicated to his people, feels that he must protect them from his own conviction that there is no afterlife. The priest is still impelled to do good for his neighbor, but this includes the desire to spare the innocent the agony of his own doubt. Emmanuel is the embodiment of Unamuno's earlier expressed ideal: So live that men will say you deserved immortality even though you cannot expect to attain it. In Unamuno's thought, man is most real when striving, accomplishing, and influencing others, and this reality lasts as long as people are inspired by it. By this criterion Don Quixote is real and immortal, and to such "immortality" Don Miguel de Unamuno aspired. He always considered himself a Catholic. He was certainly unorthodox, but capable of strong religious fervor, as evident in his long poem, El Cristo de Velazquez (1920).
Bibliography: j. ferrater mora, Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy (Berkeley 1962). j. marÍas aguilera, Miguel de Unamuno (Madrid 1943). j. b. trend, Unamuno (Cambridge, Eng.1951). m. de unamuno y jugo, Obras completas (Madrid 1950–).
[d. f. brown]