Biography of Philosopher and Spanish Educator Miguel de Unamuno
Spain is rich in history, culture, arts, and literature. One major exponent of these is Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, a Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, philosopher, and classics professor and rector of the University of Salamanca. He is also known as one of several writers of la generación del 98 (98’s generation).
Miguel de Unamuno was a very eccentric man, with even more eccentric ideas about education, literature, and politics. He had really strong convictions and ideals that are reflected in all his work. His body of work has marked and shaped generations of Spanish people through the years.
This blog post is about his life, his convictions, his works, and how his points of view have shaped the minds and the perceptions of thousands of people through the years. So if you are interested in literature, poetry, or you’re just looking to learn more about Spain and one of their most important literature exponents, this is for you! Let’s get to it!
Miguel de Unamuno’s Biography
Early Life and Studies
Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo was born on September 29 of 1864 in the port city of Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. His father was Félix de Unamuno, a humble merchant who made a fortune in Mexico during his youth, and his mother was called Salomé Jugo. Miguel was the third of six children and at the young age of 6 years old, he suffered his first great loss: his father, Félix de Unamuno, died on July 14th of 1870.
Miguel studied his first years of school in San Nicolás private school in Bilbao, and when he was about to finish the first part of his studies, the second important event that would mark his life: the Third Carlist War in 1872.
On September 11, 1875, Miguel began his studies at the Vizcaino Institute in Bilbao. During his years in this institute, he stood out in several of his study subjects. It was also during these years that he discovered a special interest in philosophy. Years later, in 1908, he would talk about these years of his life in his book Recuerdos de la Niñez y Mocedad (Memories of Childhood and Youth).
In September of 1880, he moved to Madrid to study Philosophy and Letters at the University of Madrid. In 1883 he finished his studies and obtained his doctorate. This opened him up to opportunities to teaching and collaborating with the newspapers and diaries of the time.
Adulthood and Last Years
During his childhood, while studying the catechesis for his First Communion in San Juan church, he met Concepción Lizárraga, who would become his wife during his early adulthood. From this union they had nine children: Fernando, Pablo, Raimundo, Salomé, Felisa, José, María, Rafael and Ramón.
It was around 1987 when he published his first book: Paz en la Guerra (Peace at War) in which he talked about the Third Carlist War and the profound impact it had on his life and Spain as a whole.
After graduating from the University of Madrid, he got a place in the University of Salamanca to teach Greek. At the beginning of 1900, he was elected Rector of the Salamanca University, It was during his time as Rector that Miguel de Unamuno suffered another great loss in his life: his third son, Raimundo, fell gravely ill and died. This event triggered a deep personal and religious crisis for Miguel.
Miguel de Unamuno worked as Salamanca’s University Rector until 1914, when he was dismissed. After this event he decided to get more involved in Spanish politics.
During World War I, he showed support to the allies against the Germans. He was very vocal about his political ideas and convictions, to the poing he confronted King Alfonso XIII and was later accused of injury against the Crown. He, then, was exiled to Fuerteventura and later to France.
Once the Dictator Primo Rivera left the power, Miguel de Unamuno went back to Spain and resumed his work as a professor in the University of Salamanca, where he taught Historia de Lengua Castellana (History of Spanish Language).
Once the Second Republic was stated, he was appointed in several public charges and was again appointed as Rector for the Salamanca University due to his vocal support for the government opposition.
Later, Miguel showed discontentment, once again, with the opposition government, who weren’t too happy with his last speech as Rector and dismissed him from the job. He lived enclosed in his own home under police vigilance because of his political views, which didn’t aligned to one political party or another, but changed frequently.
Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo died at the age of 72, in his own home, on December 31st of 1936.
Miguel de Unamuno’s Work and Legacy
As you can see, Mr. Unamuno was a curious character, with unmovable beliefs and deep convictions. I mentioned earlier that he was known for being eccentric. He had a peculiar way of dressing that became something like his signature: A trenchcoat, a jumper or a vest underneath and a simple black hat.
But the real work and legacy of Miguel de Unamuno is on the value of his books, poetry, theater and essays. Here is a list of some of his most important titles in Spanish:
- Revolución en la biblioteca de Ciudámuerta (1913)
Revolution on the Library of Ciudámuerta.
- Paz en la Guerra (1897)
Peace at War
- Amor y Pedagogía (1902)
Love and Pedagogy
- Recuerdos de la niñez y mocedad (1908)
Memories of Childhood and Youth
- El espejo de la muerte (1913)
- Niebla (1914)
- Abel Sánchez (1917)
- Tulio Montalbán (1920)
- Tres novelas ejemplares y un prólogo (1920)
Three Exemplary Novels and a Prologue
- La tía Tula (1921)
- Teresa (1924)
- Cómo se hace una novela (1927)
How a Novel is Done
- San Manuel Bueno, mártir (1930)
Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr
- Don Sandalio, jugador de ajedrez (1930)
Mr. Sandalio, Chess Player
- Diario Íntimo (1970)
All these works under the name of Miguel de Unamuno reflect several themes that were important to him to discuss and talk about.
One of the themes was “the problem of Spain”. With this in mind, he expressed several times his worry for Spain, his country, and all the political problems the country was going through. Miguel didn’t waste time trying to water down his harsh comments against the monarchy, a dictatorship, or the newly founded Republic if he thought his comments were going to cause some good.
On the other side, he also touched on the theme about the meaning of human lives. He was an existentialist, so it was natural he was inclined to learn and express himself on subjects like men, human life and sense of life. He often touched themes like how tragic or complicated life can be. He was also interested in the idea of immortality after the cease of existence.
He often struggled to make sense of his own paradoxes and thoughts, so he used writing as a meaning to order his ideas and a way to express his worries, wonders and doubts.
Famous Phrases by Miguel de Unamuno
1. Hay que sentir el pensamiento y pensar el sentimiento.
You have to feel the thought and think the feeling.
2. Cuanto menos se lee, más daño hace lo que se lee.
The less you read, the more damage what you read does.
3. Hablo de mí porque es el hombre que más tengo cerca.
I talk about myself because he is the man closest to me.
4. Cuando muere alguien que nos sueña, se muere una parte de nosotros.
When someone that dreams about us dies, a part of us dies.
5. A un pueblo no se le convence sino de aquello de que quiere convencerse.
People are convinced only of what they want to be convinced of.
¡Dime qué Dices Mar! (Tell Me What You Say Sea) A Poem by Miguel de Unamuno
¡Dime qué dices, mar, qué dices, dime!
Pero no me lo digas; tus cantares
son, con el coro de tus varios mares,
una voz sola cantando gime.
Ese mero gemido nos redime
de la letra fatal, y sus pesares,
bajo el oleaje de nuestros azares,
el secreto secreto nos oprime.
La sinrazón de nuestra suerte abona,
calla la culpa y danos el castigo;
la vida al que nació no le perdona;
de esta enorme injusticia sé testigo,
que así mi canto con tu canto entona,
y no me digas lo que no te digo.
Tell me what you say, sea, what do you say, tell me!
But don’t tell me; your songs
they are, with the chorus of your various seas,
a single voice singing moans.
That mere moan redeems us
of the fatal letter, and its sorrows,
under the waves of our hazards,
the secret oppresses us.
The unreason of our luck pays,
silence the guilt and give us the punishment;
the life to which he was born does not forgive him
of this enormous injustice be a witness,
so that my song with your song intones,
and don’t tell me what I’m not telling you.
Share Your Words And Views!
Miguel de Unamuno was a political, historical and cultural Spanish exponent that to this day still has relevance with his points of views and questioning. Do you agree or disagree with his views? Do you know more about Mr. Unamuno that wasn’t covered in this article? Please leave me a comment and let’s start a conversation about this incredible and interesting topic!
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