Mist is the first book I read from Miguel de Unamuno, one of Spain’s famous names, and it won’t be the last. Unamuno is an exciting author. I think we should read at least one of his books just because he is interesting. However, Mist is not only interesting, but it touches on many different topics. This metafiction novel is actually a novel of ideas, and it contains comedy, a tragic love story and colourful characters.
Miguel de Unamuno cameos
The main protagonist of Mist, Augusto, is unemployed, a well-off young man. I like him from the very first pages. The story begins when Augusto falls in love with Eugenia (or thinks he is in love). However, Augusto has not been in love before and only finds himself confused when he talks about love with his best friend, Victor. And Victor is trying to bring a new genre to literature.
As luck would have it, Eugenia falls in love with another man, but this man is unfortunately not in the standards of Eugenia. Eugenia’s mystical anarchist brother-in-law and an old-fashioned aunt have entered the world of Augusto. Oh, and of course, Orpheus, that cute dog, the only friend of man!
Towards the end of Mist, Unamuno cameos, and they talk with Augusto about death. And the rest is fiction. There are dozens of paragraphs in the book that will make you think about life and people. With this novel, published in 1914, Unamuno marks one of the first works of modernism. I am not sure that if it will create a great reading pleasure for everyone, but I would say Mist is an excellent choice to meet the author. Enjoy!
A revolutionary landmark in world literature that introduces the anti-hero/anti-novel, undergirded by philosophy – Mist.
A towering figure of political, philosophical, and literary controversy, Miguel de Unamuno was the undisputed intellectual leader of the brilliant Generation of 1898 that ushered in a second golden age of Spanish culture. In the vast and varied body of his work, none conveys his intellectual legacy more effectively than Mist, a monument of the philosophical novel and a masterpiece of modern experimental fiction.
Dispensing with the conventions of action, time and place, and analysis of character, Mist proceeds entirely on the strength of dialogue that reveals the struggles of what Unamuno called his “agonists.” These include Augusto Perez, the pampered son of a recently deceased mother; the deceitful, scheming Eugenia, whom Augusto obsessively idealizes; and Augusto’s dog Orfeo, who gives a funeral oration upon his master’s death. Mist even includes a chapter that explains Unamuno’s theory of the antinovel.
Anticipating later writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, Unamuno exploited fiction as a vehicle for the exploration of philosophical themes. First published in 1914, Mist exemplified a new kind of novel with which Unamuno aimed to shatter fiction’s conventional illusions of reality. It is an antinovel that treats its fictionality so ironically. This historic reissue includes a foreword by Theodore Ziolkowski.
Miguel de Unamuno
Miguel de Unamuno was born in Bilbao in 1864. He was about to start studying his baccalaureate when he was witness to the siege of Bilbao during the Third Carlist War, which would later show in his first novel, “Paz en la Guerra”. He was a skilled drawer and studied in the workshop of Antonio Lecuona, but his lack of control over color, something which Unamuno himself admitted, led to him abandoning his artistic career.
Between 1880 and 1884 he studied Philosophy and Literature in the University of Madrid, and during this time he read the works of T. Carlyle, Herber Spencer, Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx. He got his PhD with a thesis on the origin and prehistory of the Basque race, and not long after he agreed to the Chair of Language Arts in the University of Salamanca, where he was vice-chancellor and professor of History of the Spanish language from 1901.
In 1884 Miguel de Unamuno gets a job in a Spanish school as a Latin and Psychology teacher, and publishes an article called “Del elemento alienígena en el idioma vasco” and “Guernica”. In 1888 he gets the Psychology, Logic and Ethics Chair in the Bilbao Institute. In 1889 he travels to Switzerland, Italy and France to see the Universal Exposition and the inauguration of the Eiffel Tower. In 1891 he marries Concha Lizárraga, a woman that Unamuno had been in love with since he was a child. Together they had a total of nine children. That same year he gets the Greek Chair in the University of Salamanca.
In 1894 he becomes a member of the Socialist Grouping of Bilbao, but he leaves it in 1897. He was always very immersed in the cultural life of Salamanca, and his presence at the literary gatherings, especially the one in Café Novelty located next to the Town Hall, was very frequent.
In 1914 the Minister of Education dismissed Miguel de Unamuno from the vice-chancellorship for political reasons, and Unamuno becomes the martyr of the liberal movement. In 1920 he’s chosen dean of the Philosophy and Literature Faculty by his peers. His constant attacks on Primo de Rivera and the monarchy earns him an exile in Fuerteventura, where he gets sent in February of 1924. He’s pardoned in July of that same year, but he voluntarily leaves for France until 1930, living first in Paris before moving to stay in the French part of the Basque Country, when Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship falls.
In 1931, Miguel de Unamuno presents himself as a candidate for the Republican-Socialist party in the upcoming elections, and he’s elected. He proclaims the Republic in Salamanca on the 14th of April of 1931, and he gets his vice-chancellorship back. For a couple of years, Unamuno takes part actively in the Republican politics of the time, but by 1933 he’s already feeling tired of it all. In 1934 he retires from teaching and he’s named vice-chancellor for life of the University of Salamanca, and in 1935 he’s named as a citizen of honor of the Republic.
When the Spanish Civil War starts he initially sides up with the rebels (those going against the Republic), and that summer he appeals to the European intellectuals to support these rebels, but he soon regrets it when many of his friends are put in prison or killed for opposing the Franco regime. Unamuno talks to the dictator in favor of his friends, to no avail.
A nasty incident with Millán-Astray during Columbus Day, in which Unamuno declares his rejection towards the fascists and the dictatorship, ends with the writer’s destitution as vice-chancellor of the University of Salamanca. His last months (from October to December of 1936) were spent under house arrest. Miguel de Unamuno died on the 31st of December of 1936, at the age of 72. Mist is his most popular novel.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: