The exiled writer who mourned the old Spain but came to love his island
Miguel de Unamuno (born September 29th, 1864, Bilbao, Spain—died December 31st, 1936, Salamanca) was an educator, philosopher and author whose essays had considerable influence in early 20th-century Spain. He is also forever linked to Fuerteventura where he was exiled.
The “Generación del 98” or, in English, the “Generation of 98” (also called the Generation of 1898) was formed by a group of writers, essayists and Spanish poets.
They opted for a critical and radical attitude, hoping to change an extremely disoriented Spain.
The result of this was a more sober literature in which the authors channelled their social, historical and cultural concerns.
It was a generation marked by Europeanism and love for the pure, with a clear proposal to Europeanise Spain and deepen their love for the same, with the memory of the free, powerful and invincible medieval Castile.
The flight of rhetorical devices is another feature of these writers, together with a greater presence in their accounts of subjectivism.
The Castilian landscape became a symbol of the Spanish soul, the real Spain for which there was much sadness and love.
The theme of Spain and the meaning of life were two of the concerns felt by the writers of 98.They reflected on the meaning of life, religion, God’s existence, time, etc. They wondered about many issues related to the meaning of human existence, the passage of time, etc., a whole set of issues for which they were no real answers.
Miguel de Unamuno, as a man of 98, built his work around a common bitterness and reasons for the situation in Spain at the time.
After completing his studies in Philosophy and Arts in Madrid, he became the Rector of the University of Salamanca. Unamuno, like other intellectuals of the time, could not stand the situation that was generated in Spain after the start of the dictatorship of the Spanish general Primo de Rivera and cried about a country represented by a Military Board with disastrous consequences for the freedom of individuals. Unamuno described the dictator as “Ganso Real” or a “real goose”.
The writer would lodge various criticisms against Primo de Rivera, until the dictator on February 20, 1924, ordered the confinement of the writer to the island of Fuerteventura. Unamuno then met ostracism and exile but this did not affect his silence; he simply continued writing dozens of criticism of the situation at that time in Spain.
Unamuno found the island of Fuerteventura inhabited by 12,000 people, with an economy marked by a dependence on land. In this context, migration was established as an outlet to the possible tensions over scarce resources.
In his Fuerteventura hotel, he enjoyed the silence but would also walk through the villages of the island and befriended several local people, remembering them with special affection, such as Don Ramón Castañeyra and Mr. JE Crawford Flitch.
Unamuno did not hide his respect for the inhabitants of the island of Fuerteventura, who in turn envied and admired his efforts and work. His work, his spirit and his very essence is still present among us through the museum created in his former casa that can be visited in Fuerteventura.
Throughout the year 2014, we have also witnessed many lectures, exhibitions, tributes, etc., which reminded us of this notable figure. Moreover, in recent months, a movie about his time in Fuerteventura has been developed under the title of “Unamuno in Fuerteve-ntura”. An island that captivated a confined individual who ended up respecting and even loving it throughout his life.