Miguel De Unamuno

1864-1937. Spanish scholar and writer. Born in Bilbao and educated at Madrid, he became professor of Greek at Salamanca, where he was later rector at different times and where he spent most of his working life. For his political opinions, which clashed with those of the ruling dictatorship, he was in 1924 exiled to the Canary Islands, spent some time in France, and did not return to Spain for six years. In due course, however, he became as much the critic of the socialists as of the monarchists.

He continually sent words to war in the service of ideas. “My painful duty,” he said, “is to irritate people. We must sow in men the seeds of doubt, of distrust, of disquiet, even of despair.” The world contained much that he disliked: parochialism, complacency, hypocrisy, dogmatism, and useless tradition. Although a religious man who called himself a Catholic and denounced twentieth-century materialism, he was regarded with alarm by the church and two of his books were placed on the Index.* He was described by some as a Catholic heart at war with the Protestant spirit. Out of his mystical and philosophical preoccupations and his mastery of some sixteen languages came a stream of publications: essays, tragedies, novels, religious poems, his uneasy spirit reflected in some of the titles-The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and in Peoples (ET 1926) and The Agony of Christianity (1928), with its reminder that Christ had not come to bring peace but a sword. It has been widely suggested that his San Manuel Bueno, mártir (1933; ET 1956), with its treatment of an unbelieving priest, expresses his own longing for immortality.

See F. Mayer, L'Ontologie de Miguel de Unamuno (1955), and J. Marías, Miguel de Unamuno (ET 1967).