Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)
Introduction by Marciano Guerrero
Unamuno lived half of his life in the 19th century and the other half in the 20th. A Spanish man —Basque— of letters quite accomplished in many fields: poetry, drama, novel, essays, philosophy, politics, and foreign languages.
He was professor of Greek at University of Salamanca from 1891, becoming its rector later on. Influenced by American philosopher William James and Danish philosopher Kierkegaard he developed an existentialist Christian theology, based on a tragic view of life and immortality. In 1936 he was dismissed from Salamanca for espousing the Allied cause in World War I, and later for denouncing Francisco Franco's Falangists.
About Niebla or Mist
Mist (1914) is not a novel, but rather a ‘Nivola,’ a neologism invented by Miguel de Unamuno to taunt his critics. We cannot say it’s a new genre, because no other author has ever written a 'Nivola.'
What is certain is that Mist is one of the most important works of fiction of the Basque writer. The book addresses the insecurity of modern man who cares about his fate and his death, a very constant theme found in Unamuno’s verse and prose.
The title Mist is loaded with meaning, since there is nothing conclusive in the novel: it’s all speculation about nebulous characters and themes; a nebula where the light of understanding does not penetrate. Of course all this is on purpose. The author puts forth his ideas about human existence: that it is somber, ever blurry—and never clear and distinct as it seemed to the French philosopher Descartes.
The protagonist is Augusto Perez, young, rich, professional—and totally indecisive and lost. He is an only child and when his widowed mother dies, Augusto does not know what to do with his life. To give direction to his life, Augusto pursues a piano-teacher, Eugenia Domingo del Arco, and begins to woo her, but she rejects him because she has a boyfriend whom she adores.
Augusto befriends Rosario, one of the maids of Eugenia; in his conversations with Rosario and his servants, Domingo and Liduvina, he wants to learn whether women have souls and if you can trust them. As an experiment, Augusto Eugenia asks her to marry him to see how he would respond. Eugenia, who at the time had a fight with her boyfriend Mauricio decides to accept his marriage proposal. Little did Augusto know that he was going to be victimized.
After his deep disappointment with Eugenia, Augusto contemplates suicide. But before doing so, he decides to go to Salamanca to see Don Miguel de Unamuno. During his visit, the writer tells Augusto that does not exist, it's just a fictional character in his book and is destined to die, not suicide. Augusto argues with Don Miguel-who plays the role of God in the life of the character as author of the book, and begged him not to kill him. Augusto returns home very confused and dies there next to his dog Orfeo. It is not known if Augustus Don Miguel killed or killed him. Victor says in the preface that Augustus committed suicide. Unamuno says in the post-prologue that he decreed the death of Augustus.
In addition to the theme of Hispanicism, Unamuno deals with immortality, the inadequacy of man, existentialism, the equality (or inequality) of women, meta-fiction, and the confrontation between reality and fiction.
Structure and Style:
Structure and Style:
Monologues and dialogues predominate, underpinned by an omniscient narrator, and finally by the author himself who unceremoniously inserts himself into the fiction. There is very little description, which should not be surprising as Unamuno’s prose is distinguished by the lack of description, in contrast to the modernist narrative, which is detailed and full of dense panoramic presentations.
Mist, to use the post-modern jargon, is ‘interactive’ because it forces the reader to interpret certain acts of the characters. The end of the novel is ‘open’ because the death of Augustus is not only ambiguous, but also undetermined, without closure.
The work consists of 33 chapters, a preface, a post-prologue and an epilogue. In the manner of Cervantes, includes five stories interspersed.