Unamuno y Jugo, Miguel de

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Unamuno y Jugo, Miguel de


Born Sept. 29, 1864, in Bilbao; died Dec. 31, 1936, in Salamanca. Spanish writer, philosopher, and public figure; a leader of the “generation of 1898.”

A Basque by origin, Unamuno received a doctoral degree in philosophy and literature. In 1891 he became a professor at the University of Salamanca, and in 1901, the university’s rector. In 1924 he was exiled to the Canary Islands for opposing the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera; he escaped from exile to France and lived in emigration until 1930.

During the period of the republic, Unamuno served as a deputy to the Constituent Cortes. He became a member of the Royal Spanish Academy in 1932. Unamuno opposed the republic since he believed that it could not give Spain tranquillity and national unity; on the other hand, he condemned the fascist mutiny as early as October 1936.

Unamuno’s activities were diverse. In his publicist writings, for example, the book of essays An Examination of the Idea of Purity (1895), he attacked Spain’s bourgeois landowning social structure. During the 1890’s he became interested in Marxism and contributed to the socialist weekly publication The Class War. After a religious crisis in 1897, he abandoned socialism and developed philosophical views that anticipated many of the concepts of personalism and existentialism. The ideas and works of L. N. Tolstoy, of Pascal, and later of Kierkegaard strongly influenced Unamuno.

Unamuno’s philosophy focuses on man’s inner life, which in Unamuno’s view seeks to resolve the contradiction between the finite and the infinite. Man’s longing for personal immortality is countered by his rationalist certainty of mortality; his need for faith is countered by the inability of the contemporary mind to believe. Unamuno introduced the concept of agony, that is, a tragic sense of life caused by the irreconcilable dualism of reason and faith. These views are expressed in The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Peoples (1913) and The Agony of Christianity (1924).

Unamuno believed that through creative work, love, friendship, and motherhood one can surmount the finiteness of existence and assert one’s individuality, as seen in The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho (1905), Abel Sanchez (1917), and Aunt Tula (1921). He attacked scientism in Love and Pedagogy (1902), affirmed the personal and existential nature of philosophical truth, and elucidated the contradictions between scientific and spiritual progress. In Unamuno’s view, inner rebirth, which he termed quixotism and a heroic madness, was the only escape from the impasse of the modern bourgeois world. In his last work, the novella “St. Manuel the Good, a Martyr” (1933), Unamuno stressed the necessity of a close relationship between the individual and the entire people of a nation.

After his first novel, Peace in War (1897), Unamuno turned to literary experimentation. His new manner, characterized by purposefully obvious construction, puppet-like characters, and the use of allegory, stock types, and pseudonyms, is most evident in the novel Mist (1914). Unamuno later returned to realism; however, in Three Exemplary Novels (1920) he contrasted inner reality—the reality of imagination and will—to outer reality. Although Unamuno sought only to depict man’s inner reality, the characters of his best short stories are believable in terms of their psychology and their relations to society.

Unamuno’s many lyrics are marked by humanism, a broad range of themes, a classical clarity, close links with the Spanish poetic heritage, and a heartfelt sincerity, as seen in Songbook: A Poetic Diary (published 1953). Unamuno’s philosophical and literary works alike focused on Spain and were devoted to its people and culture, to the Spanish landscape, which he depicted with deep affection, and to Spanish traditions, literature, and art.

Unamuno’s influence on 20th-century Spanish culture has been immense. For several decades many of his works were forbidden by the Catholic Church. Unamuno helped liberate the Spanish intelligentsia from Catholic orthodoxy and contributed to the development of critical and rebellious thought in Spain.


Obras completas, vols. 1–14. Madrid, 1958–72.
Obras selectas, 4th ed. Madrid, 1960.
In Russian translation:
Dve materi. Moscow, 1927.
Tri povesti o liubvi s prologom. Moscow, 1929.
Nazidatel’nye novelly. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
Tuman. Moscow, 1972.
“Stikhi.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1974, no. 2.


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Collado, J.-A. Kierkegaard y Unamuno. Madrid, 1962.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.