Miguel de Unamuno Y Jugo

Miguel de Unamuno Y Jugo

Born: 1864. Died: 1936.


- History is the immediate historic moment that is happening, while intrahistory is an eternal, historical present.

- The intrahistory of Spain is its soul, that which is genuinely pure and vital.

- The landspace, language, and art of Castile express the soul of Spain.

- To find the soul of Spain is to modernize the nation.

- The inspiration for modernizing Spain is Don Quixote, who struggled to create his ideals against the conventions of society.

- Don Quixote inspires individuals to find thir humanity in the tensions of life, that is, in reason and faith, and in life and death.

- To live these tensions is to live tragically and to live in this tragic sense is to live authentically.

- The real problem of human life is death.

- To agonize, which means to fight against death, is immortality.


Spanish author and philosopher, predecessor of Existentialist philosophy with Søren Kierkegaard, educator, whose essays had great influence in early 20th-century Spain.

Main themes in his works are contrasts between reason and Christian faith, religion and freedom of thinking, and the tragedy of death in man's life, in which reason offers no consolation. As a philosopher Unamuno did not create a systematic presentation of his thought. He objected strongly to academic philosophers and stressed that the deepest of all human desires is the hunger for personal immortality against all our rational knowledge of life. Unamuno wrote his works in Spanish, although his mother tongue was Basque.

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo was born in Bilbao as the third of six children of Félix Unamuno, a proprietor of a bakery shop, and Salomé de Jugo, who was also his niece. When his father died Unamuno was brought up by an uncle. In his childhood he witnessed during the siege of Bilbao the violence between traditionalist and progressive forces. This experience left deep traces in his political thinking. Unamuno studied in his native city at the Colegio de San Nicolás and the Instituto Vizacaíno. In 1880 he entered the University of Madrid, where he studied philosophy and letters, receiving his Ph.D. four years later. Unamuno's dissertation dealt with the origin and prehistory of his Basque ancestors.

Unamuno's early years were deeply religious but in Madrid he started to visit the Ateneo, sometimes called the blasphemy center of the city. In its library he read works of liberal writers. After completing his doctorate Unamuno worked as a private tutor in Bilbao, where he also founded with his friends the socialist journal La Lucha de Clases. From Bilbao he moved to Salamanca, to assume the chair of Greek at the University.

In 1891 he married Concepción Lizárraga Ecénnarro; they had ten children. In 1896-1897 he went through a religious crisis, which shattered his belief in finding a rational explanation of God and meaning in life. From universal philosophical constructions and outer reality he turned his attention to the individual person, inner spiritual struggles in the face of questions of death and immortality. Unamuno once stated: 'Wisdom is to science what death is to life or, if you will, wisdom is to death what science is to life.' Seeing that reason leads to despair, Unamuno concluded that one must abandon all pretence of rationalism and embrace faith.

In 1901 Unamuno became rector of the university; he held the post intermittently until his death. He was relieved of his duties because of political reasons for the first time in 1914. In 1924 he was exiled to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands for opposing the military dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera. After a few months, he escaped to Paris, where his friends helped him create attention internationally to his exile. He then settled in Hendaye, the French Basque town nearest to the Spanish frontier, where he spent five years. General Rivera died in 1930 and Unamuno returned to the University of Salamanca, and was reelected rector in 1931. He worked as the professor of the history of the Spanish language, but in 1936 he was removed once again - this time denouncing Francisco Franco's Falangists. Unamuno was placed under house arrest. He died in Salamanca on December 31, 1936, a few months after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Unamuno mastered 14 languages. In order to read Kierkegaard in the original language he learned Danish.

One of Unamuno's most stimulating works is The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho (1905), in which the heroic and tragic knight assumes the virtues of Christ. Quixote is the crystallization of our wish to overcome our destiny. With his unyielding will to create new spiritual values in the world of materialism, Don Quixote finally solves his existentialist quest: 'I know who I want to be.' In an introductory essay called 'The Sepulchre of Don Quixote,' the Spaniards are asked to find Don Quixote's tomb, and after many wandering, they conclude that there is no tomb, that they must think Don Quixote only as the incarnation of the Spanish mind. Unamuno draws parallels between Don Quixote and the life of the founder of the Jesuit order, Ignatius of Loyola.

Unamuno's thoughts influenced among others the Nobel writer Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958) and Antonio Machado y Ruiz (1874-1947). The English writer Graham Greene wrote in his book of memoir, Ways of Escape (1980), that he had read Life and Death of Don Quixote and forgotten it, but after publishing the short story 'A Visit to Morin' and later the novel A Burnt-Out Case (1961), he noted that he shared the same distrust of theology. 'Faith which does not doubt is dead faith,' Unamuno once said. And in Ways of Escape Greene wrote: 'The Catholic solution of our problems, of our unique vital problem of the immortality and eternal salvation of the individual soul, satisfies the will, and therefore satisfies life; but the attempts to rationalize it by means of dogmatic theology fail to satisfy reason. And the reason has its exigencies as imperious as those of life.'

Major Works of Miguel de Unamuno Y Jugo

- Abel Sanchez, 1917
- The Agony of Christianity, 1928
- Aunt Tula, 1921
- How to Make a Novel, 1927
- The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho, 1905
- Love and Pedagogy, 1902
- The Mirror of Death, 1913
- Mist, 1914
- Peace in War, 1897
- Saint Manuel the Good, Martyr, 1930
- Three Exemplary Novels and a Prologue, 1920
- The Tragic Sense of Life, 1913

Quotes from Miguel de Unamuno Y Jugo

- "Everything that exalts and expands consciousness is good, while that which depresses and diminishes it is evil." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "The greatest height of heroism to which an individual, like a people, can attain is to know how to face ridicule; better still, to know how to make oneself ridiculous and not to shrink from ... ridicule." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "I hope, reader, ... we shall meet again. And we shall recognize one another. And forgive me if I have troubled you more than was needful and inevitable, more than I intended to do when I took up my pen to distract you for a while from your distractions. And may God deny you peace, but give you glory!" (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "In loving God in myself, ... am I not loving myself in God?." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "May God deny you peace, but give you glory!" (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "Nonresistance to evil implies resistance to good." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "The only reactionaries are those who find themselves at home in the present." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "Our ethical and philosophical doctrines in general ... are merely the justification a posteriori [i.e., after the fact] of our conduct, ... the means we seek in order to explain and justify to others and to ourselves our own mode of action." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "Perhaps the immense Milky Way which on clear nights we behold stretching .across the heavens, this vast encircling ring in which our planetary system is itself but a molecule, is in turn but a cell in the Universe, in the Body of God." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "Religion consists in the simple feeling of a relationship of dependence upon something above us and a desire to establish relations with this mysterious power." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "Seek ... thyself!" (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "The supreme triumph of reason, the analytical-that is, the destructive and dissolvent-faculty, is to cast doubt upon its own validity." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "We were made men and not angels in order that we might seek our happiness through the medium of this life." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)

- "What we believe to be the motives of our conduct are usually but the pretexts for it." (from "Tragic Sense of Life", 1913)


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