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Famous Like Me > Writer > U > Miguel de Unamuno

Profile of Miguel de Unamuno on Famous Like Me

Name: Miguel de Unamuno  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 29th September 1864
Place of Birth: Bilbao, Vizcaya, País Vasco, Spain
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Miguel de Unamuno

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (September 29, 1864–December 31, 1936) was a writer and philosopher from the Basque Country in Spain.


Unamuno worked in all major genres: essays, novels, poetry, and theater, and, as a modernist, contributed greatly to dissolving the boundaries between genres. There is some debate as to whether Unamuno was in fact a member of the Generation of '98 (an ex post facto literary group of Spanish intellectuals and philosophers that was the creation of José Martínez Ruiz — a group that includes Antonio Machado, Azorín, Pío Baroja, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Maetzu and Ganivet, among others). His philosophy perhaps foreshadowed the thinking of 20th century existentialists, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.

In addition to his writing, Unamuno played an important role in the intellectual life of Spain. He served as rector of the University of Salamanca for two periods: from 1900 to 1914 and 1930 to 1936, during a time of great social and political upheaval. Unamuno was removed from his post by the government in 1914, to the protest of other Spanish intellectuals. From 1926 to 1930 he lived in exile, first in the Canary Islands and then in France, and did not return until the fall of General Primo de Rivera's dictatorship in 1930, when he took up his rectorship again. It is said in Salamanca that the day he returned to the University, Unamuno began his lecture by saying "Yesterday,...", as Fray Luis de León had done in the same place four centuries before, as though he had not been gone at all. After the fall of Rivera's dictatorship, Spain embarked on its second Republic, a short-lived attempt by the people of Spain to take democratic control of their own country. The burgeoning Republic was eventually quashed when a military coup headed by General Francisco Franco caused the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Unamuno was effectively removed from his post again by Franco during this time. In 1936 Unamuno had a brief quarrel with Millán Astray at Salamanca University. Some time after that, he was placed under house arrest, where he remained until his death.


Unamuno wrote the following novels, in chronological order:

  • Paz en la guerra (Peace in War) (1895) — a work that explores the relationship of self and world through the familiarity with death.
  • Amor y pedagogía (Love and Pedagogy) (1902) — which unites comedy and tragedy in an absurd parody of positivist sociology.
  • El espejo de la muerte (The Mirror of Death) (1913) — a collection of stories.
  • Niebla (Fog) (1914) — one of Unamuno's key works, which he called a nivola to distinguish it from the supposedly fixed form of the novel ("novela" in Spanish).
  • Abel Sánchez (1917) — a novel that uses the Cain and Abel story to explore envy.
  • Tulio Montalbán (1920) — a short novel on the threat of a man's public image undoing his true personality, a problem familiar to the famous Unamuno.
  • Tres novelas ejemplares y un prólogo (Three Exemplary Novels and a Prologue) (1920) — a much-studied work with a famous prologue.
  • La tía Tula (Aunt Tula) (1921) — his final large-scale novel, a work about maternity, a theme that he had already examined in Amor y pedagogía and Dos madres.
  • Teresa (1924) — a narrative work that contains romantic poetry, achieving an ideal through the re-creation of the beloved.
  • Cómo se hace una novela (How to Make a Novel) (1927) — the autopsy of an Unamuno novel.
  • Don Sandalio, jugador de ajedrez (Don Sandalio, Chess Player) (1930).
  • San Manuel Bueno, mártir (Saint Manuel the Good, Martyr) (1930) — a brief novella that synthesizes all of Unamuno's thought. The novel centres on a heroic priest who has lost his faith in immortality, yet says nothing of his doubts to his parishioners, not wanting to disturb their faith.


Unamuno's philosophy was not systematic, but rather a negation of all systems and an affirmation of faith "in itself." He developed intellectually under the influence of rationalism and positivism, but during his youth he wrote articles that clearly show his sympathy for socialism and his great concern for the situation in which he currently found Spain. The title of Unamuno's most famous work, El Sentimiento Trágico de la Vida (The Tragic Sense of Life), refers to the human condition of the desire above all else for immortality when faced with the certainty of death. Later authors such as Jean-Paul Sartre reinforced this human desire for immortality, but Unamuno goes even further than Sartre is willing to go. According to Unamuno, not only do we desire immortality, but the immortality of our friends and family, of our homes and nations, and of all aspects of life. This desire to live forever exactly as we do now is, of course, an irrational desire, but it is this desire that makes us human, and to be human is to be Quixotic.

An important concept for Unamuno was intrahistoria. He thought that history could best be understood by looking at the small histories of anonymous people, rather than by focusing on major events such as wars and political pacts.


For Unamuno, art was a way of expressing spiritual problems. His themes were the same in his poetry as in his novels: spiritual anguish, the pain provoked by the silence of God, time and death.

Unamuno was always attracted to traditional meters and, though his early poems did not rhyme, he subsequently turned to rhyme in his later works.

Among his outstanding works of poetry are:

  • Poesías (Poems), (1907) — his first collection of poetry, in which he outlined the themes that would dominate his poetics: religious conflict, Spain, and domestic life
  • Rosario de sonetos líricos (Rosary of Lyric Sonnets) (1911)
  • El Cristo de Velázquez (The Christ of Velazquez) (1920) — a religious work, divided into four parts, where Unamuno analyzes the figure of Christ from different perspectives: as a symbol of sacrifice and redemption, as a reflection on his Biblical names (Christ the myth, Christ the man on the cross, Christ, God, Christ the Eucharist), as poetic meaning, as painted by Diego Velázquez, etc.
  • Andanzas y visiones españolas (1922) — something of a travel book, in which Unamuno expresses profound emotion and experiments with landscape both evocative and realistic (a theme typical of his generation of writers)
  • Rimas de dentro (Rhymes from Within) (1923)
  • Rimas de un poeta desconocido (Rhymes from an Unknown Poet) (1924)
  • De Fuertevenra a París (From Fuertevenra to Paris) (1925)
  • Romancero del destierro (Ballads of Exile) (1928)
  • Cancionero (Songbook) (1953) — published posthumously.


Unamuno's dramatic production presents a philosophical progression. Questions such as individual spirituality, faith as a "vital lie", and the problem of a double personality were at the center of La esfinge (1898), La verdad (Truth), (1899), and El otro (The Other), (1932). In 1934, he wrote El hermano Juan o El mundo es teatro (Brother Juan or The World is a Theater).

Unamuno's theater is schematic; he did away with artifice and focused only on the conflicts and passions that affect the characters. This austerity was influenced by classical Greek theater. What mattered to him was the presentation of the drama going on inside of the characters, because he understood the novel as a way of gaining knowledge about life.

By symbolizing passion and creating a theater austere both in word and presentation, Unamuno's theater opened the way for the renaissance of Spanish theater undertaken by Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Azorín, and Federico García Lorca.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Miguel de Unamuno