Saturday, July 29, 2006

Miguel de Unamuno

"The man of flesh and blood; the one who is born, suffers and dies - above all, who dies; the man who eats and drinks and plays and sleeps and thinks and wills; the man who is seen and is heard; the brother, the real brother." Miguel de Unamuno (from The Tragic Sense of Life, 1913)

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo was born in Bilbao as the third of six children of Félix Unamuno, a proprietor of a bakery shop, and Salomé de Jugo, who was also his niece. When his father died Unamuno was brought up by an uncle. In his childhood he witnessed during the siege of Bilbao the violence between traditionalist and progressive forces. This experience left deep traces in his political thinking. Unamuno studied in his native city at the Colegio de San Nicolás and the Instituto Vizacaíno. In 1880 he entered the University of Madrid, where he studied philosophy and letters, receiving his Ph.D. four years later. Unamuno's dissertation dealt with the origin and prehistory of his Basque ancestors.
Unamuno's early years were deeply religious but in Madrid he started to visit the Ateneo, sometimes called the blasphemy center of the city. In its library he read works of liberal writers. After completing his doctorate Unamuno worked as a private tutor in Bilbao, where he also founded with his friends the socialist journal La Lucha de Clases. From Bilbao he moved to Salamanca, to assume the chair of Greek at the University. In 1891 he married Concepción Lizárraga Ecénnarro; they had ten children. In 1896-97 he went through a religious crisis, which shattered his belief in finding a rational explanation of God and meaning in life. From universal philosophical constructions and outer reality he turned his attention to the individual person, inner spiritual struggles in the face of questions of death and immortality. Unamuno once stated: "Wisdom is to science what death is to life or, if you will, wisdom is to death what science is to life." Seeing that reason leads to despair, Unamuno concluded that one must abandon all pretence of rationalism and embrace faith.
In 1901 Unamuno became rector of the university; he held the post intermittently until his death. He was relieved of his duties because of political reasons for the first time in 1914. In 1924 he was exiled to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands for opposing the military dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera. After a few months, he escaped to Paris, where his friends helped him create attention internationally to his exile. He then settled in Hendaye, the French Basque town nearest to the Spanish frontier, where he spent five years. General Rivera died in 1930 and Unamuno returned to the University of Salamanca, and was reelected rector in 1931. He worked as the professor of the history of the Spanish language, but in 1936 he was removed once again - this time denouncing Francisco Franco's Falangists. Unamuno was placed under house arrest.
When The Republican General Milan_Astray took control of University of Salamanca on October 12, 1936, Unamuno confronted him with these words:
"At times to be silent is to lie. You will win because you have enough brute force. But you will not convince. For to convince you need to persuade. And in order to persuade you would need what you lack: Reason and Right."

Milan-Astray shouted in reply, using typical fascist reasoning;

"Death to intelligence! And long live Death!" whereupon he drove the elderly Unamuno out of the university at gunpoint. Writer and independent thinker, original mind and rector of the University of Salamanca, Unamuno consequently suffered a heart attack and was dead within a week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Death to intelligence, and long live Death". Sort of sums facism up quite nicely, doesn't it, yet it is intelligence and dare I say it, the great intellectuals that contribute to the betterment of humanity through science, research, development and progress of the human condition. When did facism ever do that?
I'm so glad you're back. Thanks for a very interesting post. I was not familiar with any of these folks who you highlight, and it has been a really healing experience to finally get my mind back working - at a much reduced level, mind you, but working all the same. Thanks.

6:40 PM  
Blogger durrati said...


And itsn't it interesting that the fascist bastard uttered his stirring words at what is generally acceptted to be the olderst continually opened school of higher learning in Europe University of Salamanca,established 1218.

I hope you get to feeling better, what, we need you in top form!

8:13 AM  
Blogger KidKawartha said...

Whattheh is right. Sounds exactly like what Bushco. would have tattooed on their fat, rich, asses. I can see it painted on the mirrors that Dick Cheney has mounted on his ceiling....

9:21 AM  

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