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SPAIN: Miguel de Unamuno

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) is one of Spain's most important modern authors. Raised a Catholic, he retained a passionate religiosity, as is evident in The Tragic Sense of Life (1913). As president of the University of Salamanca, he defied Franco when the Civil War broke out in 1936, partly because of his impassioned defense of his Basque motherland. He died in mysterious circumstances on the last day of 1936. Christopher Jones wrote "Curiously, Unamuno is now always referred to with words like "distant," "odd" and so on -- was it his Basque-ness? But personally, I am interested to know more about the Andalusian poet Antonio Machado who died in Collioure in 1939".

RH: The Basques are a strange people, one of the strangest being Pío Baroja. Unamuno disliked Madrid, but he spent a summer at the Residencia de Estudiantes. At meals, he sat opposite me, never uttering a word. I sensed that he did not want to talk, so I said nothing to him. I should have. I suspect that he was brooding about Spain, possibly feeling civil war was approaching. The poet Antonio Machado was one of the crowd of Spaniards who escaped across the Catalan border to France when Franco forces triumphed. Conditions for them on the French side were deplorable, and Machado died. Probably David Pike can give you details. Most of the great men of the Republic went into exile at that time or earlier.

Ronald Hilton - 2/5/03