Birthday: September 29, 1864
Died At Age: 72
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Unamuno, Miguel de Unamuno Jugo, Don Miguel de Unamuno, Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo
Born in: Bilbao
Famous as: Writer
Spouse/Ex-: Concepción Lizárraga Ecenarro
father: Félix de Unamuno
mother: Salomé Jugo
siblings: Félix de Unamuno, María Felisa de Unamuno, María Jesusa de Unamuno, María Mercedes de Unamuno, Susana de Unamuno
children: Felisa de Unamuno, Fernando de Unamuno, José de Unamuno, María de Unamuno, Pablo de Unamuno, Rafael de Unamuno, Raimundo de Unamuno, Ramón de Unamuno, Salomé de Unamuno
Died on: December 31, 1936
place of death: Salamanca
education: 1883-06-21 - Complutense University of Madrid, 1884-06-20 - Complutense University of Madrid
Who was Miguel de Unamuno?
Miguel de Unamuno was a Spanish educator, philosopher, and author best known for his novel ‘Abel Sánchez: The History of a Passion’, a modern exploration of the Cain and Abel story. A modernist, he worked in all major genres including essay, novel, poetry, and theater, and played a major role in dissolving the boundaries between genres. Born as the son of Basque parents, he grew up to be a creative and independent-minded young man. Having lost his father at a young age, he was primarily raised by his mother and grandmother who instilled in him a deep love for the Catholic religion. So devoted he was to his faith that he even considered becoming a priest. However, life had other plans for him and he eventually embarked on a career as an educator. He was also a prolific writer and played an important role in the intellectual life of Spain. He also served as rector of the University of Salamanca twice, but was removed from this position because of his opposition to the dictator General Miguel Primo de Rivera’s rule in Spain. An outspoken man, he once again found himself in trouble for speaking against General Francisco Franco’s Falangists following which he was placed under house arrest.
Childhood & Early Life
Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo was born on 29 September 1864, in Bilbao, Biscay, Spain, as the son of Félix de Unamuno and Salomé Jugo. His parents were of Basque heritage.
His father died when Miguel was six, and he was raised by his mother and grandmother. Under their guidance he grew up to be a young man with a strong Catholic faith. He aspired to be a priest.
Unamuno entered the University of Madrid in 1880. There his interest shifted more towards intellectual pursuits rather than religious ones. He voraciously read books on philosophy, psychology and history, and by the age of 20 he had learnt 11 languages.
It is believed that he was acquainted with the "Generation of 1898", a literary group of Spanish intellectuals and philosophers dedicated to the renewal of Spain.
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Miguel de Unamuno returned to Bilbao in 1890 and embarked on a career as a tutor and essayist. Eventually he became a Greek professor. He was more interested in becoming a philosophy professor, but was unable to get an academic appointment as philosophy was somewhat politicized in Spain.
In 1895, he published his first work, a collection of essays, ‘En torno al casticismo’ (Around Reason), in which he critically examined Spain’s isolated and anachronistic position in Western Europe. One of the common themes of his works was of the struggle to preserve one’s personal integrity in the face of social conformity, fanaticism, and hypocrisy.
In 1900 he was made the rector of the University of Salamanca and served on this post for several years. He also wrote a lot over the ensuing years, publishing books like ‘Amor y pedagogía’ (Love and Pedagogy) (1902), ‘El espejo de la muerte’ (The Mirror of Death) (1913), ‘Niebla’ (Mist) (1914), ‘Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho’ (Our Lord Don Quixote) (1914), ‘Abel Sánchez’ (1917), ‘Tulio Montalbán’ (1920), ‘Tres novelas ejemplares y un prólogo’ (Three Exemplary Novels and a Prologue) (1920), ‘La tía Tula’ (Aunt Tula) (1921).
In 1924, General Miguel Primo de Rivera overthrew the parliamentary government in Spain and became a dictator. Independent-minded and outspoken, Unamuno published a series of essays critical of Rivera.
Rivera removed Miguel de Unamuno from his position as the rector and banished him to Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands. From there Unamuno escaped to France and established himself in Hendaye, a border town in the French Basque Country. His plan was to get as close to Spain as he could get while remaining in France.
The year 1930 saw the fall of General Miguel Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship following which Unamuno returned to Spain and once again became the rector of the University of Salamanca. It was a period of major political upheaval in Spain and the nation embarked on its Second Republic after the dictator’s fall. Unamuno became a candidate for the small intellectual party Agrupación al Servicio de la República. A moderate, he refused all political and anticlerical extremisms.
In the 1930s, General Francisco Franco’s Falangists revolted against Spanish monarchy, a move that Unamuno initially supported. However, when the movement became increasingly harsh, he began to oppose it. Unamuno publically denounced Franco in 1936 and was immediately removed from his position as a rector.
His novel, ‘Abel Sánchez: The History of a Passion’ is a re-telling of the story of Cain and Abel set in modern times. The novel explores themes of envy between a man named Abel who is a famous and recognized painter, and another one named Joaquin who is a well-known doctor.
Another one of his famous works is ‘San Manuel Bueno, mártir’, a novella which focuses on the life of a parish priest in a small Spanish village. The work is believed to have synthesized virtually all of Unamuno's thought and is characterized by minimalism of action and of description.
Personal Life & Legacy
Miguel de Unamuno married his childhood sweetheart, Concepción Lizárraga in 1891. The couple went on to have ten children.
After being removed from his position of rector of the University of Salamanca by Franco, he was initially ordered to be executed. But the order was changed to have him placed under house arrest. He died of a heart attack on 31 December 1936.