UNAMUNO'S USE OF PARADOX
DONALD ALLAN ROSENBERG
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
l"rT~fTn nfl TT T.UTT flor cITmV
Donald Allan Rosenberg
This is to acknowledge Professor Montserrat Alds-Brun, Professor Andr6s O.
Avellaneda, and Professor Geraldine C. Nichols for their time, effort, and patience in
helping to make this dissertation possible.
Gratitude is also extended to Professor
Gregory L. Ulmer for his position as external member.
Recognition for his help in
formatting this work is due James C. Albury, of the University of Florida's
Instructional Research and Computing Activities (CIRCA).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................... .......... ......... ........ ................. .... .... .. .. ... .... .... ... 111
ABSTRACT ......... ............................................. ............................ ....... ........ v
1 INTRODUCING PARADOX .................................................................. .................. 1
2 HEGELIAN PARADOX IN UNAMUNO'S PAZ EN LA GUERRA (1897)........... 17
3 PARADOX IN UNAMUNO'S NIEBLA (1914) ....... ...... ... ... ... ......... ..................... ... 31
4 PARADOX IN UNAMUNO'S DEL SENTIMIENTO TRAGICO DE LA VIDA
(19 13) .................. .................................... ............ ................... ......... .................. 54
PARADOX IN UNAMUNO'S SAN MANUEL BUENO, MARTIR (1933) .......... 76
CO N CLU SIO N ........ ........... ....... .... ................ ...... ...... ...................... ... .. ..... 93
W ORKS CITED .............. ...... ..... ...... .. C. e.t. cb eCb..bb9..9.... b.bed. 97
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................... ................. ............. ........ .. ...-- -. -. .... ... 99
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
UNAMUNO'S USE OF PARADOX
Donald Allan Rosenberg
Romance Languages and Literatures
The purpose of this study is to make more familiar to the academic world, and to
the readers in general, the value and importance of paradox as used in Miguel de
Unamuno's writings. Thinking in a paradoxical mode frees one from the constraints of
traditional and dogmatic conclusiveness.
Paradox entails the philosophy of contradiction as it is a harmonization of
opposites. It not only involves irony and ambiguity, but also the inconsistencies of
oxymoron and self-contradiction. These elements are not only useful to the literary
spheres, but they also serve the cause of rationality and logic.
The force of paradox challenges the mind to consider reasons that a truism is
not necessarily so. For example, paradox insinuates the chance of identicalness between
such opposites as consciousness and nonconsciousness, reality and illusion, life and
of opposites more closely approaches truth and understanding than the customary
utterances of dogmatic and conclusive facts. To counter-balance the traditional linear
way of thinking with the more circular paradoxical manner that Unamuno uses in his
literature may thus broaden the horizons of the reader's consciousness. This is how a
survey of Unamuno's use of paradox as a rhetorical device in his literature
contributes to the cause of enlightenment and knowledge.
The aim of this chapter is to show how Unamuno uses paradox as a key rhetorical
device in his works. Some of these works that best show his use of paradox will be cited
as examples, but his final novel San Manuel Bueno, martir (1933) (Obras completes
1113-54) will be shown to be the paradigm of Unamuno's involvement with paradox.
Unamuno's works apply all four senses of the following definition of paradox as
listed in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language;
1. A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true.
situation, or action exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects. 3. An assertion
that is essentially self-contradictory, although based on a valid deduction from
acceptable premises. 4. A statement contrary to received opinion. (950)
Simple examples of paradox include: "I lie," "Never say never," "I am dogmatically
against dogma," "I do not tolerate intolerance," "Thank God I'm an atheist," and "I
conclude by saying that there cannot be any conclusion." Inconsistency, self-
contradiction, antinomy, ambiguity, irony, oxymoron, and incongruity, if not all exactly
synonymous with paradox, may nonetheless lend some further understanding.
Etymologically, the word "paradox" is rooted in the Greek language (para
= beyond, and
dokein = to think).
The preliminary chapters of this thesis will explore some of Unamuno's works that
uiill o~1~ /=iC ctsPnnnncectnnpc fnr an annnlvcic nf nararln in hic Snn Mannep.l RllBenn mfrtir.
believe, despite the inability to believe. In the opening line, the atheist asks God to hear
his prayer while denying his deity's existence. Unamuno uses paradox to separate visceral
instinctual faith from logical reason.
Whereas reason depends on words, faith needs no
language. Unamuno's words suggest that existence is a concept that one can experience
only through reason, whereas faith is experienced without the limitations of language,
definitions, or reason. To say that God exists is to define God. Definitions describe
limitations. Because God, by definition, can have no limitations, God cannot be defined.
Unamuno explains this paradox in lucid terms in his Del sentimiento trigico de la vida
El conocimiento de Dios precede del amor a Dios,
y es un conocirmento que poco o
nada tiene de racional. Porque Dios es indefinible. Querer definir a Dios es
pretender limitarlo en nuestra mente, es decir, matarlo. En cuanto tratamos de
definirlo, nos surge la nada. (163)
This text in which Unamuno implies a definition of an indefinable deity also suggests the
difference between cogent logical knowledge and visceral instinctual faith. It is this
polemical dichotomy between reason and faith that engenders much of the paradox that
Unamuno uses to help assuage his dilemma.
It is misleading to assume that Unamuno self-indulgently chooses paradox as a
means to fulfill a fanciful desire. Such erroneous assumption understates the gravity of a
force that demands recognition of its challenge. For Unamuno, paradox provides a higher
level of understanding in exchange for total submission. It is this level of thought that rips
away the shackles of conventional reflexive modes of thinking. Paradox emancipates
At the close of this poem, Unamuno has his atheist declaring"
.. Dios no
existente, pues si T6 existieras / existirfa yo tambi6n de veras" (Obras completes 6 359).
Contrary to the Cartesian cogito, the lyrical voice of the atheist expresses doubt of his
own existence, despite his obviously being conscious of his consciousness. His words
suggest that the fact that he thinks does not necessarily prove that he exists. The text
implies that it may be his nonexistent deity who is doing the thinking. At issue is what is
or is not real.
For Unamuno, reality can be only relative. Some things can be less unreal than
others, and paradox is the closest approximation to whatever passes for "real." Paradox
unifies opposites and negates assumptions to dogma, and Unamuno uses paradox in his
struggle against dialectic conclusion.
Unamuno draws from the influence of some of his predecessors as a means to
justify his use of paradox. Most notable is the influence of the Hegelian Triadic Dialectic.
This system rationalizes the perpetual flow and process of change. The circularity of flux
forces the inevitable confrontation of every idea with its diametric opposite. Nietzsche
shares this circularity in his concept of "eternal return," as did Heraclitus in his idea that
nothing is permanent but change. Remarks by Vald6s and Vald6s not only relate to this
hypothesis, but also hint at Unamuno's metafictional bent:
Unamuno was thus developing a philosophy of 'being' recast in neo-Hegelian terms
of being-in-struggle, an ethics of existential concern for the tragedy of man, and, in
his later years, an aesthetics patterned on the self-realizing dialogue between author
and reader. (An Unamuno Source Book xxxiv)
The foregoing comments relate to the paradoxes inherent in Unamuno's metafiction
because of the polarities of the dialectical process, the author-reader relationship, and the
allusions to the impossibility of the existence of reality. Any abstract idea or concrete
object eventually opposes itself, given enough change within its spiraling process of
Vald6s and Vald6s imply that Unamuno regards existence and consciousness as
being tragic. They interpret Unamuno's words as an insinuation that it is tragic to be either
aware or unaware of the tragedy of existence. Unamuno bemoans this tragedy while
exalting its necessity, and he substantiates this paradox with his aversion to systematize
or organize his thought. In order to express his disdain for the Hegelian dialectical
system, he embraces it. Unamuno does this by challenging thesis with antithesis without
concluding with a synthesis. Paradoxically, his denial of Hegelian conclusion concurs
with Hegel because the latter's synthesis is automatically a new nonconcluding thesis.
The Unamunian circularity or spiraling effect of simultaneous affirmation and
negation serves to authenticate paradox in this way: to ponder, even for a moment, the
authenticity of paradox means that when the reader returns to his or her previous linear
dogmatic ways of thinking, the newly acquired broader perspective will enable the reader
to transcend the former and narrower way. Even the slightest understanding of paradox
expands the horizons of consciousness leading to the stimulation of a fresh and vibrant
skepticism. Unamuno explains:
El esc6ptico en este sentido
se opone al dogmitico como el hombre que busca se
These words of Unamuno suggest that an inexhaustible amount of proof is
available to support any dogma that is already firmly established. Unamuno also shows
that these erroneously assumed "truths," unconsciously absorbed by the populace and
euphemistically labeled as "conventional wisdom," remain "true" because the masses are
too limited to doubt or question them. Unamuno's skepticism earns him the label of
"heretic," while his deeper thinking strengthens his personal faith in the need to question
collective dogmatic faith, also known as unquestionable "common sense."
compares and contrasts "common sense" and paradox:
He dicho exageraciones parad6jicas.
Y es que lo que llamamos paradoja es
eficaz corrective de las ramplonerfas y perogrulladas del sentido comin. La
paradoja es lo que mis se opone al sentido comun, y toda verdad cientifica nueva
tiene que aparecer como paradoja a los del sentido com6n en seco. (Obras completes
Sense, meaning, or "logic" that is most widespread and believed by the greatest amount
of people for the longest time is called "common sense." To the most pragmatic and
dogmatic mind, this is the ultimate reduction and should never be questioned. This is the
linear attitude, built upon millennia of erroneous assumptions that Unamuno seeks to
supplant with the paradoxical approach.
He uses paradox as a means to engage the
prevailing questions about what it is that constitutes truth, knowledge, and reality. The
fact that there can be no absolute conclusions keeps the consciousness in a perpetual state
of chaotic perplexity, and it is out of this struggle that Unamuno takes the Kierkegaardian
"leap to faith." This instantaneous creation of subjective belief, once achieved, is
dialectically challenged by the logic that faith bypasses and tries to replace. Unamuno
Unamuno's belief that he creates from the faith that springs from the chaos of
visceral emotion provides temporary relief from the linguistic perplexity of logic.
Nonetheless, faith is restricted to the subjectivity of the individual.
Faith also depends on
the support of its antithetical reason, whose logic is the doubt that paradoxically
challenges faith while simultaneously sustaining it. Unamuno says:
Raz6n y fe son dos enemigos que no pueden sostenerse el uno sin el otro. Lo
irracional pide ser racionalizado, y la raz6n s61lo puede operar sobre lo irracional.
Tienen que apoyarse uno en otro y asociarse. Pero asociarse en lucha, ya que la
lucha es un modo de asociaci6n. (Del sentimiento tragico de la vida 116)
The above quote by Unamuno is paradoxical because he says that reason and faith
are enemies that depend on each other for their maintenance. His words imply that
irrationality in general, and the irrationality of this paradox in particular, demand to be
rationalized through reason that can work only through irrationality. This process begins
with the individual's relationship with words.
This association engenders the conflict of
opposites that leads to struggle as a way of association. The concept of defining an entity
by that which it is not, provides enough opposition to engender a wealth of paradox.
Unamuno's words suggest that struggle is a way to associate faith with reason.
Whereas the visceral essence of faith ignores, bypasses, and transcends language,
concrete objective essence of reason depends on language.
associate faith with reason.
Words enable the individual to
The mind struggles for language with which to associate
entities through the obstacles of opposition, but the arbitrary and enigmatic nature of
language also paradoxically encourages associations from these impediments.
reason, and faith needs one's ability to reason that faith brings consolation. The
paradoxical association of reason and faith, based on the implication of Unamuno's
words, results in a synthesis of mutual dependence.
Notwithstanding, reason and faith are enemies because the former doubts the latter,
while seeming to envy the latter's freedom from language. Reason and faith engage in a
conflict in which neither can conquer the other, while they seem to keep trying to do so.
Unamuno voices his approval and support of this symbiotic interdependence. In Del
sentimiento tragico de la vida, he remarks: "
.y por rm parte no quiero poner paz entire
mi coraz6n y mi cabeza, entire mi fe y mi raz6n; quiero mis bien que se peleen entire sf"
(123). Another of Unamuno's comments reflects his advocacy of the struggle between
reason and faith: "Por la guerra es como aprenden a conocerse y, como consecuencia de
ello a quererse, vencedores y vencidos" (117). Unamuno uses reason and faith so that
each creates the other, and this interaction between the two never reaches the synthesis of
conquest. He also combines the above Hegelian system with the Kierkegaardian "leap to
faith." He thus "makes believe," as described by the verbs "crear-creer."
Ultimately, Unamuno persuades his readers that whatever he says and whatever is
the opposite of what he says are simultaneously both true and false. He longs for his
longing to remain unfulfilled. He delights in rationalizing irrationality, and showing to
what extreme he can wax paradoxical. He says:
Y el alma, mi alma al menos, anhela otra cosa; no absorci6n, no quietud, no paz, no
apagamiento, sino eterno acercarse sin ilegar nunca, inacabable anhelo, eterna
esperanza que eternamente se renueva sin acabarse del todo nunca. Y con ello un
represents the Thesis of Hegel's Dialectic, Unamuno's "longing fulfilled" would represent
the challenging Antithesis. Although Unamuno stops short of allowing a concluding
Synthesis that would be a new "longing," the original "longing" remains anyway, because
Unamuno's foregoing quote implies that "longing fulfilled" and "longing unfulfilled" are
one and the same.
Unamuno's omission of the final stage (Synthesis) matters not in this case, since
automatically it would have been a new Thesis to be challenged by a new Antithesis, ad
infinitum. As Gbtz observes: "Inspired by Hegel's dialectic, Uhnamuno rejected as tragic
any static view of life and reality. No final synthesis for him, in this life or the next" (72).
Despite Gitz's statement, the Synthesis of Hegel's Dialectic is neither static nor final.
Otherwise, Unamuno would not have accepted this system, given his aversion to
conclusion. Nonetheless, Gtitz shows a clear understanding of Unamunian paradox:
In his comments on Hegel's Wissenschaft der Logik, Unamuno wrote: "The
opposites of dialectic exist together and their only possible union is the process of
existence itself." That is, polar notions are not true at the expense of each other.
Rather, they are true only when they are present together, and any effort to prefer
one over the other is a betrayal of the very reality of existing. (71)
Gatz also cites detractors such as Friedrich Waismann, who sees paradoxes as
resulting from a careless use of words that should never be allowed to arise (71). To say
what should or should not be has no impact upon the fact of its being. The word "should,"
in this case, reflects subjective criteria that are irrelevant to any scientific system of proof.
Paradoxically, however, to make dogmatic pronouncements about Waismann's
inflexibility supports his argument. For one to protest Waismann's premise against
The above clarification of paradox shows its simultaneous negating and affirming
nature, and why Unamuno is convincing in his use of paradox. His words show
impatience with the detractors who try to sway him to write in a mode contrary to his
unconventional ambiguous nature. In the Socratic style, Unamuno tries to awaken his
audience to a deeper level of thought that violates established fallacies and disrupts
received dogma. Paradoxically, the frustration resulting from the demands of his
detractors further stimulates Unamuno's literary productivity.
Unamuno protests against his "good friends" who try to bring him down to their
level of mediocrity:
Hay amigos, y buenos amigos, que me aconsejan que me deje de esta labor y me
recoja a hacer lo que llaman una obra objetiva, "algo que sea, dicen, definitive, algo
de construcci6n, algo duradero." Quieren decir algo dogmitico. Me declare incapaz
de ello y reclame mi libertad, mi santa libertad, hasta la de contradecirme, si llega el
caso. (Obras completes 3 263)
Unamuno's words imply that he holds sacred his freedom to be contradictory and
paradoxical, not only in his literature, but also in whatever facet of his existence that one
might consider to be apart from his literature. His metafictional bent, as reflected in
Niebla, for example, reflects the inseparable and intimate intertwining of Unamuno's
writing, thinking, and being. These three states constitute a simultaneous unity that
describes Unamuno, and his words invariably imply this conscientiously uncompromising
conviction. Unamuno never contradicts his rigid claim for self-contradiction.
In The Lone Heretic (1963), Rudd discusses how the concept of paradox, conflict,
and contradiction took root when Unamuno read Donoso's comments about human reason
Rudd traces the development of Unamuno's use of paradox as a rhetorical device.
She notes that his thought reflects studies of writers that pre-date his appropriation of the
Hegelian and Kierkegaardian concepts. She cites these prior authors.
Rudd observes extreme paradoxes in Unamuno's ideas on religion. These stem from
his struggle with his childhood faith in opposition to his later sense of reason. Unamuno
propagation as "original sin" which spawns "an inevitable contradiction, the paradox
of Christianity." Rudd cites Unamuno's idea that one should revile propagation for its
sinfulness, while praising it because it sustains the human race (153-54).
The foregoing self-contradiction of Unamuno implies that he uses paradox as a
refuge from the compulsion to question the need for existence. Unamuno fears celibacy
because it would make humanity extinct. He fears the loss of self-identity and
consciousness that mortality entails. He fails to probe beneath the surface of the
celibacy/propagation paradox. He does not question the need for the human race to
persist in the first place. He does not wonder about the need for anything to have ever
existed. If there were no life or consciousness, there would be no conscious creature to
bemoan or rue such an absence or void. The possible passage of trillions of centuries of
past nonexistence seems not to worry any mind, but Unamuno never discusses this. He
seems unable to think beyond the fact of existence as the ultimate monadic reduction.
Existence comes from its parent nonexistence, and number one is an offspring of
zero. Therefore, what Unamuno does not say helps readers to analyze what he does say,
because a thing is defined by what it is not. There is a cause/effect relationship between
Imposible no es, en efecto, concebirnos como no existentes, sin que haya esfuerzo
alguno que baste a que la conciencia se d6 cuenta de la absolute inconciencia, de su
propio anonadamiento. Intenta, lector, imaginarte en plena vela cual sea el estado de
tu alma en el profundo suefio; trata de llenar tu conciencia con la representaci6n de
la no conciencia, y lo veras. Causa congojosfsimo vertigo el empefiarse en
comprenderlo. No podemos concebirnos como no existiendo. (Del sentimiento
tragico de la vida 52-53)
The above text of Uamuno declares that it is impossible to conceive of a total
cosmic void or lack of consciousness because to do so requires an act of consciousness.
Such a hypothesis can exist only as an idea or concept, and ideas or concepts can exist
only if and when there is a consciousness to accommodate them. Unamuno's view on this
is paradoxical because while he says that it is impossible to conceive of a total
nonexistence of consciousness, he is simultaneously conceiving of this hypothesis. His
view is also nonparadoxical because he is conceiving only of the fact that such a
hypothesis is impossible, and not of the hypothesis, per se. Thus, the overall paradox in
this case is the contradiction between a situation being at once paradoxical and
One must keep trying to grasp paradox in order to perceive the slightest clarity in
Unamuno's works. He keeps himself and his readers in a perpetual state of perplexity,
confusion, and discontent, while pursuing the struggle against these conditions. Above all,
he disdains peace, preferring the glory achieved through the anguish of agitation and
chaos. Every instant of consciousness must be filled with doubt and inquiry. The glory of
the problem is in the dialectical process of questioning with the rejection of any
complacent submission to dogmatic solutions.
al tomar la pluma para distraerte un poco de tus distracciones, me propuse. iY Dios no te
d6 paz y si gloria!" (295). Unamuno prefers to suffer eternally the cost for maintaining
the glory of identity and immortal consciousness. He dreads peaceful oblivion because it
disallows the consciousness necessary to experience it. For him, peace is a delusion of
temporary relief between two episodes of anguish. Peace lets one nurse wounds while
girding for the next onslaught.
Unamuno's words imply that he values peace, but since it is unattainable, he
pragmatically abandons any hope for it. Instead, he accepts struggle as the necessary
condition of existence. Unamuno's words suggest that he prefers the realistic candor of
war to the deceptive treachery of what seems to be peace. Strife and anguish mobilize
him to take action, whereas peace immobilizes and leads to false complacency. Unamuno
paradoxically gains peace by scorning it. He says,
"La paz es la sumisi6n y la mentira. Ya
conoces mi divisa: primero la verdad que la paz. Antes quiero verdad en guerra que no
mentira en paz" (Obras completes 3 269).
Unamuno's expressions of paradox do not always invite praise from his critics. For
example, Juliin Marfas notes what may be interpreted as weaknesses in Unamuno:
... life is a dream, yet he says that it is the authentic reality. This is what has
generally been interpreted as a paradox, a word which greatly annoyed Don Miguel
because he realized there was a lack of understanding behind it... he lacked the
intellectual means to comprehend his deepest intuitions. (71)
In response to Marfas, one could question whether any "intellectual means" could
be applied to comprehend any intuitions; deep, shallow, or otherwise. The very subjective
faith." Contrary to the assertions of Marfas, Unamuno knows better than to try to use
intellect or logic as a means to "comprehend his deepest intuitions."
To describe Unamuno's "comprehension" of intuition entails his convoluted
paradoxical application of words. He uses language to reason the fact that faith, unlike
reason, needs no language. He uses language to communicate to the world that language
forces the conclusion that he strives so passionately to avoid. This paradox, true to its
contradictory nature, concludes with its negation of conclusion. In Del sentimiento
trigico de la vida, Unamuno's words imply that nothing can exist without contradiction:
"Como que s6lo vivimos de contradicciones,. .
With the mind thus conditioned to paradoxical contradiction, one may consider the
long history of paradox in literature in general, and Western philosophical literature in
particular. The influences seen in Unamuno's works reflect Hellenic antiquity, deriving
from the pre-Socratics.
In a critique discussing pre-Socratic influences that appear in some of Unamuno's
works, Pascual Mezquita cites some paradoxical Heraclitian/Parmenidian hypotheses:
"Con este trabajo se pretend dar una vision mas ajustada de la dial6ctica unamuniana en
relaci6n con el pensamiento de Hericlito, relaci6n no suficientemente estudiada hasta
hoy" (189). Mindful of Unamuno as a Hellenist, Pascual Mezquita is referring to the
influence that some of the pre-Socratic philosophers such as Heraclitus and Parmenides
exert upon Unamuno's thought. Heraclitus says,
"You can't step in the same river twice,"
and "Everything changes but change itself" (Palmer 22).
motion is impossible (Palmer 26-27). Zeno of Elea explains why "
be impossible even if it were possible" (Palmer 29). This is a strong and direct
representation of paradox.
Pascual Mezquita comments,
"Muchos concepts historicistas de Unamuno ...
pueden ser mejor interpretados si se analizan desde la dial6ctica heraclftea ...
Pascual Mezquita exemplifies this comment with "
. la dial6ctica unamuniana
consiste en la afirmaci6n simultanea de los contraries alternatives, sin possible
Pascual Mezquita cites paradoxical elements of Hegel's dialectical process that
Unamuno's Paz en la guerra (1897) reflects:
Para el rector salmantino, la guerra constitute parte esencial de la historic y la
sociedad humana, pues la dial6ctica que acarrea es fecunda al estar intemamente
enriquecida con las posiciones contrarias; cualquier discurso, cualquier
argumentaci6n, cualquier pensamiento rico en contradicciones es rico en
consistencias, porque es capaz de abrazar dial6cticamente las perspectives
contrarias del tema o problema en cuesti6n
The foregoing quote relates to Unamuno's essay "Ni 16gica ni dial6ctica, sino
pol6mica," in which Unarauno declares:
La dial6ctica esta llena de contradicciones intimas, y por eso es fecunda. La
dial6ctica es el process de las antinomias y las antftesis. La dial6ctica es lo menos
dogmitico que cabe, y por muy apasionada que sea, siempre, en el fondo, es
esc6ptica. (Obras completes 3 747)
Thus Unamunian paradox shows Classical Greek as well as the later Nordic influences.
As Unamuno venerates and emulates the iconoclastic icon of a Socratic gadfly, the
reader apprehensively hangs onto Unamuno's every word, ever anticipating the crude
how he feels. Unamuno's words imply his intent that his readers maintain the creative and
productive tension that reflects and engenders the glory of his paradox.
This works for Unamuno and it serves his paradox-loving readers. By way of
agitating stimuli in the Socratic mode, Unamuno aims to provoke his readers to accept no
dogma, and to question every idea and every idea's antithetical possibility.
The title of Unamuno's first novel Paz en la guerra (1897) describes an idea ("paz")
within an opposite idea ("guerra"). Unamuno uses this device as a means to condition the
mind of the reader to become familiar with paradox. The above example of this device is a
precursor to what Unamuno says thirteen years later, when his essay "Mi religion" shows
further examples of paradox:
Y me pasar6 la vida luchando con el misterio y aun sin esperanza de penetrarlo,
porque esa lucha es mi alimento y es mi consuelo. Sf, mi consuelo. Me he
acostumbrado a sacar esperanza de la desesperaci6n misma. Y no griten:
"Paradoja," los mentecatos y los superficiales. (Obras completes 3 261)
Unamuno's hope in desperation parallels his finding peace in war. These are
examples of the poetic bent and paradoxical word couplings both flowing at once from
each other. Unamuno's words imply that his hope springs from the hopelessness from
whose depths one can only upward surge.
What he says suggests that he paradoxically
finds comfort in the discomfort of his struggles. His words imply his pride in being
paradoxical while berating those who use "paradox" as a term of contempt.
For Unamuno, the hope that springs from desperation also begets desperation,
hopelessness, and doubt. His words reflect the influence of Hegel's Triadic Dialectic that
"Hegelian paradox in Unamuno's Paz en la guerra (1897)", cites various
passages from this novel. Unamuno uses paradox to paint a poetic portrait, and this
application of paradox directly relates to the dynamic mechanism of Hegel's Triadic
Dialectic. This following chapter shows how Unamuno's words imply that paradox can
broaden the horizons of the reader's consciousness, while swaying the reader to embrace
paradox as a valid component of the thought process. This involves the arbitrariness of
language and its interrelationship with paradox. Because one relies on language in order to
discuss the unreliability of language, such discussion is a paradoxical self-negation. This
antinomy invites the Hegelian Triadic Dialectic, as well as this comment by George
The median nature of language is an epistemological commonplace. So is the fact
that every general statement worth making about language invites a counter-
statement or antithesis. In its formal structure, as well as in its dual focus, internal
and external, the discussion of language is unstable and dialectical. (123)
This quote relates to Unamunian paradox in the following chapter.
HEGELIAN PARADOX IN UNAMUNO'S PAZ EN LA GUERRA (1897)
This chapter will show how Unamuno's use of Hegelian paradox in Paz en la
guerra, as well as in most of his other works, is based on a relatively simple premise. The
supposition is that each and every entity, be it abstract concept or concrete object, either
does or does not exist.
Within a nonparadoxical realm, these are the only two
possibilities. Within paradox, however, Hegel provides a third possibility: that an
entity can simultaneously exist and not exist.
Unamuno's Paz en la guerra reflects the influence of Hegel's paradoxical system
of Triadic Dialectic, in which the challenging of a thesis by its antithesis resolves in a
synthesis. This system is paradoxical because the synthesis automatically becomes a new
thesis to be challenged by a new antithesis, ad infinitum. This tension of diametric
opposites suits Unamuno because of his aversion to dogmatic conclusiveness.
The paradoxical nature of Paz en la guerra begins with the title itself, in which
Unamuno implies the first two components of Hegel's Triadic Dialectic, as represented
by the thesis "paz" and the antithesis "guerra."
As the title of this novel suggests,
Unamuno reaches no resolving synthesis for the concepts of peace and war. The title
implies that peace is an anomalous and fleeting break within the permanent background
of war, analogous to the concept that a momentary spark of stability is only part of the
and wishful thinking. In contrast to this excessive optimism, Unamuno's literature often
implies a reverence for the inevitability of adversity. His words suggest that he conquers
strife by pursuing it. Unamuno paradoxically tries to escape discord as he seeks it. He
expresses the deception of peace in a way that is analogous to the vision of an idyllic
rustic pond, beneath whose tranquil surface prevails the violence of the big fish eating the
little fish. In Paz en la guerra, he writes:
En la monotonia de su vida gozaba Pedro Antonio de la novedad de cada minute,
del deleite de hacer todos los dias las mismas cosas y de la plenitud de su
.. Flufa su existencia como corriente de rio manso, con rumor no oido y
de que no se daria cuenta hasta que se interrumpiera. (Obras completes 2 95)
Unamuno's foregoing words imply his attempt to raise the reader's belief in a truth
that is stronger for being expressed through three paradoxes. Unamuno's oxymorons
and self-contradictory statements are valid and authentic despite their presenting of
opposition. The paradox of polarized possibilities leads the reader to a deeper
understanding that transcends stark statistical objectivity. Because Unamuno uses only
the first two components of Hegel's Triadic Dialectic, it is moot whether or not one
could technically call this an authentic application of Hegel's system. Unamuno rejects
the Synthesis of this Triad because it suggests conclusion, even though the Synthesis is
automatically a new Thesis. This neutralization of the Synthesis renders it both existent
and nonexistent. Unamuno is mindful of this paradox, as the following discussion of the
three sets of opposing terms in the above quote will show.
Regarding the first set ("monotonfa"/"novedad"), Unamuno has his character Pedro
S* 4 .4 1 -.t i rrl -1 U 1
comforting familiarity is the novelty of the monotony. Interpreted within Hegel's Triadic
Dialectic, it is this "comfort" that could be seen as the Synthesis for the Thesis of
"monotony" challenged by the Antithesis of "novelty."
With the second set ("plenitud"/"limitaci6n"), Pedro Antonio delights in the
fullness of his limitations. In a particular sense, this is not paradoxical because the
fullness is from the character's view and the limitations are from Unamuno's view.
Through the prisms and filters of the Hegelian Triadic Dialectic, there are many potential
analyses of what Unamuno's words imply, especially regarding the sets of opposing
words in question. Within Hegel's
"fullness" could conceivably represent the
Synthesis of knowing the difference between the Thesis of "courageously applying one's
potential to improve a given situation" and the challenging Antithesis of "serene
acceptance of one's limitations." It is Unamuno's appropriation of Hegel that lends this
vehicle for oxymoronic word couplings. These polarities engender the paradoxes that
Unamuno expresses in his perpetual struggle simultaneously to affirm and negate that
which is supposed to be "real" and "true."
The third set of opposing terms at issue in this passage within Paz en la guerra is
"rumor no ofdo." This simple and direct self-contradicting oxymoron is a typically
Unamunian gadfly that prods the reader away from traditional assumptions. Applying the
classical metaphor of water, one could say that Unamuno dwells beneath the shallow
surface of appearances and his readers either join him in his profundity or ignore the
urgency to deep thought. The latter choice may result in guilt of ignoring, or "guilty
The cited portion of the text implies that Pedro Antonio's existence flows like a river
current with a "soundless noise" whose silence can be interrupted only by the presence of
an eardrum to receive the sound waves that would neutralize the silence and actualize the
noise. This situation is practically identical to the enigma of whether or not a tree falling
in a forest makes a sound if no living creature is around to hear it.
Within Hegel's Triadic
Dialectic, the paradox of "rumor no ofdo" may be resolved by positing "rumor" as Thesis,
"no ofdo" as the challenging Antithesis, and the "impact of the sound waves upon the
eardrum" as Synthesis. The presence of the eardrum acts as the obstacle that interrupts the
heretofore unimpeded and unnoticed flow of the sound waves.
This is what Unamuno's words imply in Paz en la guerra. The eardrum as obstacle
to the flow of sound waves is an elucidating metaphor for Unamuno's concept of the
impossibility of an absolute void of consciousness. This concept of such impossibility is
paradoxical because Unamuno is conceiving of the impossibility while saying that he
cannot conceive of it. Even though one needs consciousness in order to think about its
nonexistence, the required consciousness does not necessarily negate its hypothetical
nonexistence. Both this premise and Unamuno's opposing idea are valid, and the reader
may more readily find this fact obvious through experimentation rather than by trying to
decipher further verbal explanation. Nonetheless, saying that words cannot clarify what
one is trying to say is paradoxically a clarification. Relevant to this enigma is the
aforementioned analogy of the eardrum.
As the eardrum interrupts the flow of the sound waves, consciousness interrupts
thought legitimize the paradoxes that appear in Paz en la guerra. The
"novelty of monotony," the "fullness of limitations," and "soundless noise" that
Unamuno expresses in this novel have in common their relevance to nothingness because
the two components of each oxymoron negate each other to the void that Unamuno
Unamuno fears the oblivion of tranquil nonexistence. He prefers immortality and
eternal consciousness, no matter how painful and anguished. He desires the glory of
self-identity through suffering rather than the peace of oblivion. Therefore he closes his
Del sentimiento trigico de la vida with a seemingly paradoxical blessing. He places
peace and glory in mutual opposition, even though they tend to concur: "
Y Dios no te
d6 paz y si gloria!" (295). This is in contrast to Unamuno's title Paz en la guerra, which
implies a mutual agreement of peace and war despite their joint opposition. Thus
Unamuno further exemplifies his paradoxical bent by making synonyms antonymous,
and antonyms synonymous.
Less obvious are Unamuno's paradoxical subtleties. He challenges the minds of his
readers by keeping his intent obscure and enigmatic. Unamuno seems unable to
understand that without consciousness, one cannot be conscious of the absence of
consciousness. In such a state, one could not experience even a split second of eternity.
Yet it is such an eternity without consciousness that Unamuno so morbidly fears. In
question is whether or not he really fears this, or he is feigning the fear as a ploy to
confound the reader with further paradox. Nonetheless, despite the reader's need for
proof. Unamuno gains his reader's faith in the sincerity of his literature that shows
Relevant to his struggles with these feelings, Del sentimiento trigico de la vida
shows Unamuno discussing Hegel's concepts regarding the Deity, consciousness, and
nothingness. He cites Hegel's
idea that pure being and pure nothingness are identical.
Based on this, the pure being of Unamuno's fear of an eternity devoid of consciousness
is negated by the pure nothingness or nonexistence of this fear. This idea of Hegel
lends theoretical support to Unamunian self-contradiction and paradox even to the level
of absurdity. If pure being and pure nothingness are identical, then existence and
nonexistence are likewise identical. For this reason, Unamuno places his deity in a realm
of "superexistence" that transcends all subordinate levels of existence and nonexistence.
Whenever language and its offspring logic become too absurd for Unamuno, he deals
with them by leaping to the solace of faith that he can feel without thinking. In so doing,
faith gives him the "paz" within the "guerra" of reason that fails him. Unamuno says:
Y el Dios 16gico o racional, el Dios obtenido por via de negaci6n, el ente sumo, se
sume, como realidad, en la nada, pues el ser puro y la pura nada, seg6n ensefiaba
Hegel, se identifican. Y el Dios cordial o sentido, el Dios de los vivos, es el
Universe mismo personalizado, es la Conciencia del Universo. (Del sentimiento
trigico de la vida 165)
Despite the initial impression one may receive from the concept of equating God
with nothingness, such a proceeding on Unamuno's part reflects his spirituality. His
literature shows the randomness and deception of words, despite his most skillful
choices of language. Unamuno's words imply his search for truth that he knows to be
unattainable, but approachable through paradox.
"God" cannot be God, who by definition
"Nothingness" cannot be nothing because it is imbued with
including God's controversial existence. In Del sentimiento trigico de la vida, Unamuno
shows further evidence of Hegelian influence, even if only to contradict Hegel. Saying
"raz6n construye sobre irracionalidades" implies that reality is built upon fantasy:
Hegel hizo c61lebre su aforismo de que todo lo racional es real y todo lo real
racional; pero somos muchos los que, no convencidos por Hegel, seguimos creyendo
que lo real, lo realmente real, es irracional: que la raz6n construye sobre
irracionalidades. Hegel, gran definidor, pretendi6 reconstruir el universe con
definiciones, como aquel sargento de Artilleria decia que se construyen los caiiones
tomando un agujero y recubri6ndolo de hierro. (24)
Unamuno's metaphor of the hole of the cannon implies the importance of
His words suggest that the hole takes precedence over the iron that
surrounds it. The words that Unamuno uses in his critique of Hegel's thought imply
Unamuno's paradoxical acceptance and rejection of Hegelian influence. The implication
is that the cannon poses a dichotomy. Hegel's
"real/rational" cannon contains within it a
Unamuno counters this fact by highlighting the nothingness, or the hole in
the cannon as the subject around which the cannon happens to be constructed.
Paradoxically the Hegelian Dialectic influences Unamuno in this way: the cannon is the
Thesis. The hole is the Antithesis. The Synthesis is the instability of the becoming. The
ongoing corrosion and eventual disintegration of the metal of the cannon becomes
subordinate to the everlasting nothingness of its hole. The cycle then renews itself via the
instability of the conquering nothingness, resurrecting the dust of the cannon through
whatever transformation of matter/ energy, in an infinite circularity of creation and
-- t r r I
arises from the fallacy of language, the ultimate paradox of such fallacy is that only
language can one show its fallacy. Chiasmically, proof of fallacy lies in fallacy
of the proof. To say that nothing is more paradoxical than nothing is a clear and terse
example of the fallacy of language.
Hegel's chiasmic concept of "rational=real/real=rational" is dogmatically concrete
enough to invite Unamuno's paradoxical agreement and opposition. Hegel's
systematically poses the Thesis of nothingness, and challenges it with the Antithesis of
something, resulting in the Synthesis of the instability of becoming. Thus, to perceive
nothingness is to perceive something. Scientists lend further support to the authenticity of
nothingness by saying that nature abhors a vacuum. Nature's perpetual struggle
simultaneously against both the nothingness of nonexistence and the being of existence
describes cycles of creation and destruction. This perspective lends legitimacy to paradox
in general, and to Unamuno's use of paradox in particular for this study
Viewed this way,
paradox is the mainstream norm, and dogma is the marginalized anomalous "other" that is
commonly received as unquestionable truth.
Nothingness gives rise to the instability whose chaos becomes filtered through the
kaleidoscope of cosmic symmetry. Schopenhauer tempers and assuages his pessimism
with the harmonious balm of balanced point/counterpoint, and Blanco Aguinaga ponders
paradoxical Unamuno's Paz en la guerra:
Ha sido el silencio el iltimo element que ha llevado a Pachico a la vision mis alta
y honda; lo negative ya positive que sirve de base a la paradoja lifrica de lo inefable:
la "canci6n silenciosa," la "callada sinfonfa" que Pachico escucha; paradoja 6ltima
The above quote (especially the last six words) implies the identicalness of
opposites to which Unamuno applies the Hegelian Dialectic. His Paz en la guerra subjects
the character to some of the novel's many paradoxes, such as peace in war. The
character's personal experiences also reflect intrahistoria.
This Unamunian idea derives from the Hegelian concept of volksgeist ("spirit of the
Within Hegel's Triadic Dialectic, Unamuno's intrahistoria is an Antithesis that
challenges the Thesis of history as an official recorded chronology, which obviously
entails a specific period of time. The more visceral intrahistoria involves time in a
different way. Unamuno uses a technique in mixing the monotony of everyday
happenings (the paz of intrahistoria) with official statistics (the guerra of recorded
history). The former involves subjective individual perceptions of time, whereas the latter
deals with a more objective and collective sense of time. Blanco Aguinaga's discussion of
the time element sheds further light on the issue:
Lo primero que nos anuncia es la fusi6n de los tres tiempos del hombre en uno: "Su
pasado le derrama en el alma una luz tierna y difusa; siente una paz honda... de
sus recuerdos esperanza de vida eterna". Estin aquf separados los tres tiempos
porque el hombre no puede discursivamente fundirlos, pero n6tese c6mo fluyen el
uno en el otro por gracia de la oraci6n continue que tiene como centro esa paz
honda del present en que todo se armoniza. El pasado esti vivido ahora en la
nostalgia quieta y tranquila; ahora tambi6n esta vivido el future en la tranquila y
quieta esperanza. La "luz tierna y difusa" envuelve en continuidad a los tres
tiempos, difuminando con su magia los escollos de la secuencia. (65)
Thus Blanco Aguinaga explains how perceptions of time in Paz en la guerra interrelate
with one's potential sense of peace, even in the midst of war.
Time is fallacious and deceptive because its perception is so dependent upon, not
Unamuno's idea of intrahistoria, and its parent Hegelian volksgeist are adaptable to
Hegel's Triadic Dialectic, and thereby subject to paradoxes. As Palmer observes:
According to Hegel, even though the mind does have a universal, abstract structure,
its content changes evolutionarily from period to period. There exists a mode of
philosophical introspection which reveals the general structure of Mind and even
allows us to reconstruct history in an a prior manner. (224-25)
Unamuno's use of paradox as a rhetorical device reflects some of the Hegelian influence
expressed in the above quote. Like Hegel, Unamuno sees history as flowing and dynamic
in the Heraclitian sense. That is, a chronological list of historical events is perpetually
reinterpreted by individual subjective minds. While it remains the "same" history, it
It is in this way that Unamuno's literary technique of paradox works. The text of his
Paz en la guerra shows examples of how he vivifies situations through paradoxical
rhetoric. He thus portrays the feelings of his protagonist:
... interesado en la variedad del paisaje, en el descubrimiento de un nuevo irbol, de
una ignorada umbria, de una caseria desconocida para 61 hasta entonces; en esto
interesado, lo mismo que los asistentes al Casino en cada nueva combinaci6n de las
cartas en las vicisitudes del juego de naipes, y su tfo en la met6dica sucesi6n de sus
intimas devociones y en los variados accidents del combat de su alma con el
demonio. iSiempre todo nuevo y todo siempre viejo en el perdurable cambio, sobre
la eterna inmutabilidad de las cosas! (Obras completes 2 264-65)
In the final sentence of the above quote, Unamuno is applying paradox as a means to
express delusions of familiarity. One assumes a thing as being old or monotonous
through its seeming familiarity, only to rediscover it at another moment, through a
different mental and/or emotional perspective. All entities and situations, be they concrete
I-- ...1i !------------ A----_- -.a" __ _A _' -_ -_
lies in the subjectivity of the beholder. Moreover, because all entities are in a "state" of
becoming, to target their essences is like trying to board a moving train. The train was
already in a process of spatial change, and it becomes further modified upon boarding it.
Unamuno's use of paradox is his way of dealing with the simultaneous antonymity
and synonymity of polarities. Through this literary technique Unamuno suspends the
habitual disbelief in his readers, while awakening in them a dormant belief in
opposition. Unamuno's rhetorical device of paradox is not intended to confound the
reader. Its purpose is rather to awaken the reader from his or her simplistic and fallacious
assumptions and comfortable delusions of familiarity. To enlighten entails the painful
removal of erroneous presuppositions. This cure hurts even more when such fallacies are
perpetuated through valued traditions of the masses. Due to Unamuno's quixotic courage to
challenge received dogma, in conjunction with his literary creativity, he creates belief in
whichever of his readers dares to risk social stigma. Unamuno's embrace of a partly
Hegelian reasoning process is in iconoclastic defiance of the received traditionalism
whose mass power marginalizes Unamunian thought.
Paz en la guerra shows Hegel's
influence on Unamuno's way of thinking.
all of the latter's paradoxical passages are suited to illustrate the former's Triadic
Dialectic. Hegel's influence over Unamuno's thought is further exemplified by the latter's
use of chiasmus, an element associated with paradox. A definition of chiasmus sheds even
more light upon the perception of paradox.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines chiasmus as "a
they are connected, and the relationship of chiasmus with paradox. Olson says about
... he learned enough German to read G.W.F. Hegel's Wissenschaft der
" (4). Olson reports on Unamuno having said that Hegel "'ha sido uno de los
pensadores que mas honda huella han dejado en mi. Hoy mismo creo que el fondo de mi
pensamiento es hegeliano ...
Olson also observes Unamuno's appropriation of Hegel's idea of simultaneous
antonymy and synonymy of existence and nonexistence, a paradox that is widely
represented throughout Unamuno's Paz en la guerra:
... the idea of the identity of pure being and pure nothingness is actually not one
that he took from Hegel, so much as one to which he responded because it gave
expression to his tendency to think in terms of paradoxically joined contraries.
Hegel's concept, like all statements of identity, is itself based upon an implicit
chiasmus, since because of the free reversibility of terms, the proposition Being
Nothing immediately evokes the corollary Nothing
= Being, which shows them to
be as implicitly symmetrical, and therefore chiastic, as are paired statements of
Palmer applies the above principle to Hegel's
Triadic Dialectic, with which Being is
the Thesis, Nothingness is the Antithesis, and Becoming is the Synthesis. Palmer says
that anything occurring between the polarities of Being and Nothingness is Becoming
(227). These texts imply that whatever is, is on its way to becoming something else. Not
only are entities defined by everything that they are not, but they also move toward
becoming something else that is defining them. Unamuno's words suggest, for example,
that peace and war define each other, and each progresses toward becoming the other,
even to the point of each simultaneously being the other. Unamuno further exemplifies
.* *** i i* / i "- *j _ i -' -
bajo la guerra inacabable, sustentindola y coronandola. Es la guerra a la paz lo que
a la eternidad el tiempo: su forma pasajera.
Muerte y la Vida. (Obras completes 2 300)
Y en la Paz parecen identificarse la
The above text implies that the capacity of human emotions to experience even the
most extreme horrors of war cannot prevail without the interruption of the (at least
temporary) sensation of peace. Either through the desensitization or the monotony of
incessant mental anguish and physical trauma, the numbing effect of such monotony that
tempers extremes invariably brings about a feeling of peace. Likewise, the sweetness of
unlimited peace goads the dormant passions to clamor for calamity, if only to implore the
subject to do something
-- anything -- even if it is wrong.
The agonistic constituent of Unamuno's Socratic and quixotic nature is a major
source of his creativity in the paradoxical mode. The text of his Paz en la guerra, along
with virtually all of his literary output, says that peace embarrasses him while he is
trying to maintain his devout belief in the need to suffer and struggle. Because
Unamuno's nature is pivoted around this belief in the need to struggle, based on what his
words imply, his greatest struggle is with the fear of losing or even somehow
compromising this belief. He creates this belief, and with it, existentially creates his
nature. Regarding the last sentence of the previous quote, the implication is not that life
and death are two sides of the same metaphorical coin. Rather, they are only an
infinitessimal atom on one side of said coin. Thus both sides are virtually a blank
representation of the two faces of nothingness, of which the singular life/death entity
struggles to become a part. So implies Unamuno's text.
Blanco Aguinaga notes: "
. .. ya esti claro el concept de la que Unamuno Ilamaria la
'intrahistoria': historic natural hegeliana. .
Within Hegel's sense of history,
Unamuno sanctifies war if it leads to truth. Unamunian paradox transcends
distinctions between life and death, faith and doubt, truth and falsity, and peace and
war. Filtered through an understanding of Unamuno's sense of paradox, these final
words of Paz en la guerra are equally applicable to peace as they are to war:
En el seno de la paz verdadera y honda es donde s61lo se comprende y justifica la
guerra; es donde se hacen sagrados votos de guerrear por la verdad, 6nico consuelo
eterno; es donde se propone reducir a santo trabajo la guerra. No fuera de 6sta, sino
dentro de ella, en su seno mismo, hay que buscar la paz; paz en la guerra misma.
(Obras completes 2 301)
The foregoing paradoxical ending of Unamuno's Paz en la guerra suggests that
the appreciation of peace requires the contrast of war. Only by knowing pain can one
know its absence.
Within the Hegelian Triadic Dialectic, Unamuno's words imply
that the Synthesis for the polarities of peace and war is his desired immortality of
experience, consciousness, and identity.
The following chapter, "Chapter 3: Paradox in Unamuno's Niebla (1914)",
illuminates the paradox inherent in the line that is supposed to separate fiction from
reality. This line is paradoxical because Unamuno's words make it seem
simultaneously existent and nonexistent. The paradox becomes sharply focused with
one's concentrated exploration of this line of demarcation, as Unamuno's Niebla
clearly exemplifies his literary technique of paradox.
PARADOX IN UNAMUNO'S NIEBLA (1914)
Unamuno's Niebla is a work of metafiction.
Webster's New World College
Dictionary defines metafiction as follows:
1 Fiction in which the mediating function of the author and the technical methods
used in writing are self-consciously emphasized and in which the traditional concern
with verisimilitude is minimized. 2 A work of such fiction. (904)
Metafiction is paradoxical because it places the reader's mind in a position whereby that
which he or she believes contradicts itself. To cite a strong example of metafiction may
serve more effectively than to offer a longer and more detailed definition of this genre.
Niebla is such an example because of how the author Unamuno creates the fictional
The real Unamuno situates his alter ego and namesake in the fiction so as to
interact with the fictional characters. In effect, the author Unamuno, who is real, creates a
fictional image of himself in order to interact with his characters who do not exist in reality
and therefore cannot interact with the real Unamuno who writes them. It is this separation
between the real and fictional Unamuno that is the line of demarcation between reality and
fiction. Consequently, every aspect of the metafictional Niebla depends on the degree of the
frailty of the reader's consciousness of the frontier separating actual fact from fictitious
fantasy. It is in this way that the reader, consciously or not, submits to Unamuno's
between reality and illusion, fact and fiction, and what is true or false. Unamuno's words
imply his intent to diminish such expectations. His texts suggest his aim to be the Socratic
With Niebla, Unamuno plays with the reader's perception of the line that is supposed
to separate the real from the fictitious. The reader begins to doubt the existence of
knowledge, communication, and existence itself. This doubt enables the reader to more
easily accept the metafiction that increasingly strengthens the doubt in the reader.
Unamuno's rhetorical use of irony and paradox in his metafiction Niebla entices the
reader to assume and accept, on some level of consciousness, a synonymity of fact and
fiction. The disbelief of the reader becomes suspended to some degree and for some length
of time, depending on the mind of the individual reader. This device expands the horizons of
the reader's consciousness. This expansion is a tool that one may apply in dealing with
practical mundane situations. Unamuno's capacity to write a work such as Niebla
exemplifies the use of expanded consciousness, strength of will, and developed literary
acumen. His words imply that he uses them (consciousness, will, acumen, and words) as
tools not only to express himself and teach his audience, but also to deal with his inner
Even before the beginning of Niebla itself, Unamuno makes one of his fictional
characters write the prologue. The reader's continuous reassurance that a fictional character
cannot write a prologue, nor do anything else, demands a heightened focus on the part of
the reader. This intensity of concentration is paradoxically enough to distract the reader
Some of the prankish prose that constitutes Unamuno's Niebla suggests his sense of
an almost vengeful triumph over an audience whose appreciation Unamuno demands and
gets, based on what his words imply. The text makes the reader question truth, certainty,
reality, and conclusion.
While Unamuno creates his characters in Niebla, his imagination
lets him suspend his disbelief that an author can be manipulated by his characters. The
same creative imagination that enables Unamuno to write Niebla is that which makes him
believe that he empowers his characters to affect him. This interaction may promptly
embrace the thought mechanisms of the reader. For example, the text says:
Es muy frecuente que un autor acabe por ser juguete de sus ficciones... "Y esta mi
vida, ,es novela, es nivola o qu6 es? Todo esto que me pasa y que les pasa a los que
me rodean, ,es realidad o es ficci6n? "No es acaso todo esto un suefio de Dios o de
quien sea, que se desvanecera en cuanto El despierte, y por eso le rezamos y
elevamos a El cAnticos e himnos, para adormecerle, para acunar su suenio? ,No es
acaso la liturgia toda de todas las religiones un modo de brezar el suefio de Dios y
que no despierte y deje de sofiarnos?
" (Obras com.letas 2 616)
Unamuno's metafictional style suggests that he creates perplexed characters as a
means to deal with his personal relationship with the mysteries of existence. Even a
pragmatic reader not given to flights of fantasy may need to struggle to resist the
seductive paradoxical line that supposedly separates reality from fiction.
Unamuno creates the belief, or "makes believe" that the prologue to his metafiction
Niebla is written by a fictional character of the work,
Victor Goti. The reader knows the
true writer to be Unamuno, but in question is the definition of the verb "to know."
Unamuno forces a temporary suspension of the reader's habitual disbelief, and this
suspension consequently compromises the authenticity of knowledge, communication,
... porque los deseos del senior Unamuno son para mi mandates, en la mis genuine
acepci6n de este vocablo. Sin haber yo llegado al extreme de escepticismo
hamletiano de mi pobre amigo Ptrez, que lleg6 hasta a dudar de su propia
existencia, estoy por lo menos firmemente persuadido de que carezco de eso que
los psic6logos llaman libre albedrfo, aunque para mi consuelo creo tambi6n que
tampoco goza don Miguel de 61. (Obras completes 2 543)
Goti says that P6rez doubts his own existence. From the metafictional view, the
cogito has P6rez knowing he exists since he thinks. From the concrete perspective, P6rez
cannot think because he does not exist. It is the real person Unamuno who is doing the
thinking for Perez, and Unamuno is writing these thoughts while making it appear that
his fictional protagonist P6rez is thinking. Unamuno also makes P6rez suspect this truth,
but P6rez exists only for the sake of Unamuno's paradoxical rhetoric.
Nonexistent P6rez is in no position to think, suspect, or do anything else.
Paradoxically, he is also in no position to be nonexistent, because even nonexistence
implies the idea of existence. To think thus may help the reader see how Unamuno can
manipulate the belief/disbelief systems of his audience. Upon entering Unamuno's realm,
the reader becomes susceptible to a kind of understanding that the beauty of Unamuno's
self-contradiction and paradox engender. This rhetorical device leads the reader to a level
of consciousness that nonparadoxical literature cannot reach.
Goti exemplifies the foregoing. He is just as nonexistent as P6rez, and he implies as
much by saying that he has no free will. He takes comfort in believing that Unamuno is
also devoid of free will. Nonetheless, Unamuno exercises his power to choose whatever
Goti says and does by virtue of the real Unamuno writing the fictional nonexistent Goti.
^ --- / i ^i
words is his deity's choice, and that this idea is projected through choices of his
characters in Niebla.
What is at play here is the paradox of fatalistic predeterminism as opposed to
existential free will. The paradox is that one is predetermined through destiny,
environment, and biology to have the "free will" to choose one's destiny, environment,
and even biology. Unamuno's spiral of "God-writer-character-reader" also provides a
circular dynamic realm accommodating the reader's indulgence in paradoxical thinking.
It is the open-ended nonconclusiveness of that which has neither beginning nor end
that is the circularity within which paradox best thrives. The circular interactions within
Niebla require that the reader keep in mind that there are two distinct entities named
Unamuno. The first is the real-life author who creates the second, his fictional persona,
through which he may deal with the other characters in the novel. This second is the
intermediary, for it is physically impossible for the real Unamuno to communicate
directly with his metafictional characters. Unamuno's words suggest his idea that if an
author can choose what his fictitious character may think, say, or do, within the context
of the character's delusion of his free will, then, by extension, the author is in like
position in relationship to his deity. The text of Niebla suggests that its author's link to its
characters is a metaphor for God's link to the author.
Unamuno's words make his characters seem real. His text implies that God's
creatures are real because they exist, while God is on a higher level of reality, and
"super-exists." For Unamuno, reality can be only relative. His words suggest that some
contradicts himself and uses paradox, he is trying to justify his belief that reality can be
only relative. The words of Niebla imply that reality and objectivity depend on one's
perceptions; no two moments of which can be identical, even within one individual
reading the text. Niebla compromises the absoluteness of communication, knowledge,
and existence itself.
It is Unamuno's
questioning of these components of nihilism that fuels his use of
paradox in Niebla. As a novelist, Unamuno is asking the reader to imagine given possible
situations and characters. The writer acknowledges the nonexistence of these fictional
situations and characters despite the similarity between them and their counterparts in the
real world. The exception lies with fantastic fiction because this genre cannot cohere with
reality. Niebla is not supposed to be of this genre, but paradoxically consistent with his
customary inconsistency, Unamuno injects an element of fantasy into Niebla. He makes
the dog soliloquize on humanity's link with language: "La lengua le sirve para mentir,
inventar lo que no hay y confundirse. El lenguaje le ha hecho hip6crita" (Obras
completes 2 680).
The foregoing shows Unamuno's departure from the metafiction that Niebla is
supposed to exemplify. The "fact" that the dog thinks deeply (as may happen in fantastic
fiction) has no direct link to the author through his persona talking with his protagonist
(metafiction). Nonetheless, both modalities can equally represent real-world possibilities
because the power of mythological symbolism transcends the hierarchical order of an
imaginary spectrum that codifies degrees of reality and nonreality. The validity or
There is the reality of reason and mathematics and there is the reality of
mythological ideas based on instinctive emotions including the faith to which Unamuno
leaps. His Niebla with its metafictional paradox may spur the reader to further explore,
through a greater sense of skepticism, the essence of reality. This essence varies with a
given observer at a given moment. Because this makes reality relative, it challenges the
possibility of defining reality as an absolute entity. By showing what reality is not,
Niebla paradoxically offers a deeper understanding of the relativity of reality. This may
be more effective than a factual definition.
Dictionaries try to define reality with words such as "objectivity" and "actuality."
Because these abstract entities are perceived only through the subjective mind of a given
individual, objectivity and actuality cannot exist beyond the limitations of their
respective contexts. This linguistic problem of the inability to define reality leads to the
paradox that the only reality is the fact that it cannot exist. Unamuno's words imply that
he is relating to this paradox in Niebla, as he presents a dialogue between the fictitious
character P6rez and the fictitious Unamuno whom the real Unamuno invents as his
persona in the metafiction.
It is only through the fictitious copy of the real author that the latter is able to reach
the metafictional world of the characters in Niebla. By way of analyzing what Unamuno's
"dream dialogue" in Niebla implies, one may hypothesize that this text is one of
Unamuno's effective ways of enabling the reader to see "reality" through the paradox of
This compares to the subconscious mind of the dreamer that makes the
fictitious persona of the self so as to interact with the characters and situations within the
dream. The persona in the dream cannot be the same entity as the real dreamer who is
having the dream. Thus the real dreamer cannot know that he or she is only dreaming. If
the dreamer thinks that he or she knows that the experience at hand is only a dream, it is
just because he or she is only dreaming that he or she knows this. Moreover, it is the
subconsciously invented persona of the dreamer that believes that he or she knows that
what is happening is just a dream. Only when awake can the dreamer know that what
happened was a dream, because the unconsciousness of sleeping precludes knowing.
Thus within a dream, one can only dream of knowing that the experience is a dream.
The foregoing hypothetical analysis is parallel to what Unamuno depicts in his
metafictional Niebla, which also contains a discussion on dreams (Obras completes 2
If a particular belief, attitude, or emotion prevails in both the dream and the waking
states, the difference between these states is partially compromised. This exemplifies the
blurring of the line between fact and fiction. This negates any absolute separation of real
and unreal. Based on the idea that one deals with real conflicts through dreaming, the text
of Unamuno's metafiction implies the author's use of the dream process by extending and
expanding upon it by writing Niebla. In so doing, Unamuno extends the blurring of the
line between fantasy and reality to his metafiction while paradoxically reinforcing the
authenticity of the line by dint of his intensely concentrated awareness of the line. The
heightened consciousness of the line would deem him more "sane" than the norm.
Paradoxically, the more "sanely" that Unamuno dwells upon this line of demarcation
between the dream state and the waking state, the more the authenticity of the line
becomes compromised. The following words in Niebla suggest Unamuno's exploration
into the world of dreams. His discussion on dreaming within the metafiction reflects his
idea of the latter as extension of the former:
-...Cuando un hombre dormido e inerte en la cama suefia algo, iquC es lo que mis
existe, 61 como conciencia que suefia, o su suefio?
-IY si suefia que existe 61 mismo, el sofiador? -le repliqu6 a mi vez.
-En ese caso, amigo don Miguel, le pregunto yo a mi vez, ,de qu6 manera existe 61,
como sofiador que suefia, o como sofiado por si mismo? Y ffjese, ademis, en que al
admitir esta discusi6n conmigo me reconoce ya existencia independiente de si.
-iNo, eso no! iEso no! -le dije vivamente-. Yo necesito discutir, sin discusi6n no
vivo y sin contradicci6n, y cuando no hay fuera de mi quien me discuta y
contradiga, invento dentro de mi quien lo haga. Mis mon6logos son dialogos.
-Y acaso los dialogos que usted forje no sean mas que mon6logos...
-Puede ser. Pero te digo y repito que tt no exists fuera de mi...
-Y yo vuelvo a insinuarle a usted la idea de que es usted el que no existe fuera de
mi y de los demis personajes a quienes usted cree haber inventado.
(Obras completes 2 667)
The above excerpt from the text of Niebla suggests that Unamuno reinforces his
belief in the deity/author/character/ reader relationships by his creation of a fictitious
character with whom to share a dialogue that in reality is a monologue. Unamuno makes
himself believe that he can create a belief in the fact that he can create a belief. The
The same foregoing excerpt shows many other paradoxes. It begins with a question
about one thing more truly existing than another.
"Mas existe" implies that existence is
not "existence" in the strict sense of the word because it is relative. Unamuno's words
imply that some things exist more than others. Niebla suggests that existence is relative
rather than absolute. The text also implies the mutual and simultaneous creating and
believing of deity, author, persona, character, and reader. The words of Unamuno suggest
linear streams of consciousness as spinning into circularities of orbits. From this
perspective, fact and fiction are not separated by lines of dogma. Rather, their polarities
are harmonized by circles of paradox.
Notwithstanding, fact exists and fiction exists. The line that separates them exists.
These concrete facts are real, actual, objective, and true. They invalidate Unamuno's idea
that one entity can exist more than another, as his phrase "mis existe" implies.
Nevertheless, these truths cannot be absolute because they are not independent. They
depend on the individual who is beholding and observing them, at a given moment. The
line that separates fact from fiction depends on the intensity of the observer's focus on the
line, at the time. The degree of this intensity that the reader brings to a work of metafic-
tion, such as Niebla, strongly determines the reader's appreciation of the importance of
paradox. This is because, with the line that separates fact from fiction, it is the fact or
fiction of the line itself that must be questioned in a dialectical process. Unamuno's
adherence to Hegel's
Triadic Dialectic subjects the thetical fact of the line to be
challenged by the antithetical fiction of it. The synthesis cannot exist because it is
the question, realizing that the answer is neither possible nor necessary. Niebla is about
the line that separates reality from non-reality, and the reader's intensity of concentration
upon the line determines both the existence and the nonexistence of the line. This is an
effect, intended or not, of Unamuno's use of paradox, and it is a cause for the
perpetuation of such use.
Intensity of concentration needs purpose, motivation, and the emotions that
engender them, none of which can be treated by "exact science." This fact compromises
the absoluteness of reality. If one adds to this the arbitrariness of language, one may say
that "fiction exists," but one must first explore and examine the detailed definitions of
"fiction," "existence," and "definition." Thus Unamuno's idea, valid or not, that one thing
can exist more than another implies the relativity of all existence, even that of fiction.
At issue is the overlapping of fact and fiction. The words of metafictional Niebla
suggest the blurring of the line that is supposed to separate real fact from the illusion of
fiction. The principles of contradiction and the harmonizing of polarities define the
paradoxes that Unamuno's words reflect in his Niebla. His text also suggests his
expectation that his readers wonder about various reasons for his use of paradox.
Does Unamuno use paradox as a means of self-deprecation, so as to relieve the
seriousness of his existence? Unamuno's words keep showing his pride in being
contradictory. His playful phrase "mis existe" is a clear example of both his pride and his
humility. He is humble enough to admit to being proud of his paradoxical intentionality.
"Mas existe" implies that some entities exist more than others. This means that some
existe" makes existence relative rather than absolute. This idea negates all existence, even
though Unamuno, his words, and his mind that interacts with his words exist while his
words "mas existe" imply the impossibility of any existence.
Thus Unamuno makes his existence more tolerable by "denying" the existence of
anything, including himself. This Unamunian "comic relief" and sense of paradoxical
humor are well reflected in his metafictional Niebla with its compromised line that is
supposed to separate fact from fiction.
Such a line exists, but the existence of the fact that one thing can exist more than
another invalidates the concept of existence, because of the uncertainty of how far a thing
must be reduced before it ceases to exist. The question is not only the existence of a line
that is supposed to separate fact from fiction, but also the existence of a line that is
supposed to separate existence from nonexistence.
To further compound Unamuno's "mis existe" paradox, the concept of the relativity
of existence absolutely recognizes the existence of a given existence. Unamuno's phrase
"mis existe" implies the necessary equal validity of "menos existe," and how little a thing
can exist before it can be called "nonexistent," by whom, and under what conditions.
Thus the line that is supposed to separate fact from fiction does or does not exist, to
varying degrees. This casts existence and nonexistence as synonymous, or at least, as two
sides of the same coin. In this case, the coin would represent consciousness and/or a
linguistic construct. Unamuno's dialogue with the protagonist of Niebla suggests the
hypothetical synonymity of existence and nonexistence by dint of a spectrum of
-No, no exists mas que como ente de ficci6n; no eres, pobre Augusto, mis que un
product de mi fantasia y de las de aquellos de mis lectores que lean el relato que
de tus fingidas ventures y malandanzas he escrito yo; td no eres mas que un
personaje de novela, o de nivola, o como quieras llamarle. (Obras completes 2 666)
The words of the fictional Unamuno in Niebla verify that he knows that Augusto, with
whom he is conversing, is a fictional character.
What the fictional Unamuno does not
seem to realize is that he is just as fictional as Augusto. The real author Unamuno
intentionally uses this device of playful enigma.
Extreme ambiguity results from the following circumstances: Unamuno's fictional
persona believes himself to be real. Fictitious Augusto also believes that he is real. Each
believes that only the other is fictional. The reader of the fiction is real, and the onus is
upon him or her to sharply focus on the important distinctions. The dialogue is tricky
because it challenges the reader to stay fully conscious of the fact that the real author
Unamuno and his fictional persona Unamuno are two different entities. The sharply
focused realization of this distinction must never be compromised.
It is impossible for the real Unamuno to engage a dialogue with a fictional and
nonexistent character. As a substitute, he invents a fictional persona to represent him.
Material for a much deeper philosophical study would be the essence of the
unfathomable lacuna that separates the real author from his fictional persona. Unamuno's
text implies that its dialogue is that which would satisfy Unamuno were it real and not
part of a fiction. Unamuno's words suggest that such a dialogue would be ideal for him,
were all of the circumstances in the novel actual fact. The words in his Niebla imply his
statement. In his dialogue, Unamuno avers,
"Dudas, no -le interrumpi-; certeza absolute
de que td no exists fuera de mi producci6n novelesca" (Obras completes 2 666). This
statement negates any doubt. Unamuno is contradicting the fact that he needs doubt and
contradiction. In so doing, he is indulging the contradiction and the paradox that he
In Unamuno's Niebla, his dialogues with his fictional protagonist Augusto reflect
momentary suspended disbelief during the acts of writing and reading it. The paradoxical
nature of self-contradiction of one's belief is akin to the mixed emotions induced by horror
fiction. The reader feels terrified, but safe in knowing that it is but fiction. The fictional
persona Unamuno and the fictional protagonist Augusto are upset by their mutual threats
to kill, while each denies the other's existence. Paradoxically, this mutual denial does not
mitigate the anxiety. Unamuno's belief in his deity further complicates the issue, while
paradoxically shedding some light of reason upon it. The protagonist of Unamuno's
Niebla begs Unamuno's fictional persona to let him stay alive to keep his identity:
-Quiero vivir, vivir..., y ser yo, yo, yo...
-Pero si tri no eres sino lo que yo quiera...
-iQuiero ser yo, ser yo! jQuiero vivir!
-y le lloraba la voz. (Obras completes
The contradictory and paradoxical synonymity of existence and nonexistence,
although hypothetical, shows itself when the real Unamuno, by way of the fictional persona
Unamuno, refuses Augusto his continued existence/nonexistence:
-No hay pero ni Dios que valgan. iVete!
-Pues bien, mi senior creador don Miguel, tambi6n usted se morir, ... Dios dejara
... y se moririn todos los que lean mi historic
o. iEntes de ficci6n
como yo; lo mismo que yo! ... yo
se crea y el que se crea se muere ..
. ente ficticio como vosotros ... El que crea
y moririn todos los que me piensen ...
Luego se tante6 como si dudase ya de su propia existencia. (Obras completes 2 670)
The foregoing excerpts from the dialogue between the fictional persona Unamuno
and the fictional protagonist in Niebla reflect the author's use of paradox as the central
rhetorical device in his literature. The most prominent aspect of this use is Unamuno's
manipulation of the belief systems of his readers. He effects a suspension of the reader's
disbelief, if only for the duration of the reading. His purpose is to encourage
understanding by fostering doubt, inquiry, and analysis of the line that is supposed to
separate fiction from reality. Unamuno vivifies paradox by blurring the line between
existence and nonexistence, so that his readers may perceive the two as one and the same
entity. The traditional disbelief of this hypothesis becomes suspended, however
temporary. This harmonization of opposites, such as existence and nonexistence, reality
and fantasy, and fact and fiction, is a major constituent of paradox.
Unamuno's words imply his intent to make his reader embrace paradox. Part of his
technique is allowing the harmonization of opposites to subtly intrude upon the reader's
habitual adherence to the limiting shallowness that conventional dogma impels.
Unamuno's words imply the pitfalls of blind conformity. The possibility of a fictional
character communicating with the author of the fiction is the opposite of the impossibility
,-*C s-Lk n A~ a- f T T... n ukw-k t n^ In a-kn-k ak..2 r nn-k' 4Lf j a ann n- tfan^^ uw ,"< fl&r *T -1h k. ., r VEf l k I v1 ^ n k nlr4 .in f^, 1 4 ? + flf V4 /t4 / 1I
distinction between the real Unamuno and the fictitious persona. The gap between the two
distracts the reader, however briefly, from concentrating on this difference. The space that
Unamuno provides between himself and his fictional persona, based on what the text of
his metafiction implies, is the terra incognita that engenders the paradox of polarities that
harmonize. This enables Unamuno to play with the line that separates fact from fiction by
unifying them. Paradoxically, he does this within a context of extreme gravity, but he is
serious about the line within a context of impish and prankful jollity. The manipulation of
the line that is supposed to separate illusion from reality leads Unamuno to the rhetorical
device of paradox with which he creates his metafictional Niebla.
Unamuno's act of writing metafiction is a reality that puts words together to signify
an unreality. The product of his writing is not the act of his writing, even though factual
act and fictional product both constitute writing. This equates writing with not writing,
and shows the inauthenticity of language, consequently casting doubt upon the
authenticity of any word, including "authenticity" itself. Unamuno plays with words.
Author Unamuno playfully confuses himself with his persona. In the following dialogue of
Niebla, he keeps the reader guessing which Unamuno is letting protagonist P6rez rail
i LConoces a don Miguel de Unamuno, Domingo?
-Sf, algo he leido de 61 en los papeles. Dicen que es un senior un poco raro que se
dedica a decir verdades que no hacen al caso...
-Pero tle conoces?
Va')9 nitfr ,,',Ak 9
These words of Unamuno imply that the protagonist P6rez knows that he, as well as
everything else in existence, is something out of a book. In the case of his particular
"existence," he is obviously referring to the book Niebla, in which he is being written by
Unamuno, whose name he mentions. He knows that the author has decided to kill him,
and he takes consolation in the fact that the author will eventually meet his own demise.
A major paradox with metafiction is that it simultaneously appears to be both more
and less unreal than regular fiction. Because the author is a real person, his involvement
in the metafiction makes it seem less a fantasy than ordinary fiction. However, the
author's interactions with the characters incline to draw enough of the reader's attention to
the suspension of his or her disbelief, so that the reader concentrates more strongly upon
the fact that the contents of the metafiction are nevertheless unreal. Thus the reader's
added awareness of the unreality of the work may make it seem more illusory than
conventional fiction. Analogically, one who repeatedly vaunts his or her integrity tends to
arouse doubt and suspicion in those within earshot.
If repetitive emphasis persuades a reader that a given point is valid to a given
degree, the inherent doubts that the point carries are just as convincing as the
persuasion. This is one of the features that makes Unamuno's Niebla so paradoxical.
For any split-second that a reader doubts the fictitiousness of the protagonist, the real
and the unreal are fused as one entity. Unamuno seizes upon this dialectical
mechanism as a device by which to suspend the disbelief of his readers, in this case,
those of Niebla. He thus validates his use of paradox as a major rhetorical device in his
with fiction, but also by going beyond both, thereby compromising the difference
Huertas-Jourda discusses Unamuno's use of paradox as being invaluable for its
vigorous and compelling way of conveying reality. Huertas-Jourda says that Unamuno's
use of paradox forces the reader to "experience the idea, rather than just receive it" (9).
He also notes how the "'real world and the world of 'fiction'
lose their distinction
" (42). Unamuno's metafictional Niebla exemplifies this loss of distinction. To
experience an idea makes it more concrete than to just receive the idea. This modifies
the identity of the idea, such as that of the nonexistence of the fictitious protagonist of
Niebla. The complex dynamics of the reader's belief system interacting with Unamuno's
device of paradox blurs the line between fact and fiction into a nonconcluding malleable
The misty ambience of Niebla reflects Unamuno's blurring of the line that is
supposed to distinguish wife from mother. He projects this theme onto character Don Avito,
during a dialogue with protagonist Augusto:
... jams cref al hacerla madre que como tal la necesitarfa para mi un dia. Porque yo
no conoci a mi madre, Augusto, no la conocf; yo no he tenido madre, no he sabido qu6
es tenerla hasta que al perder mi mujer a mi hijo y suyo se ha sentido madre mfa.
(Obras completes 2 600)
This oedipal Unamunian theme is paradoxical because it reflects the lust for procreation as
simultaneous with its opposite, the desire for self-negation, or the death wish. The latter is
represented by the urge to return to the umbilical and prenatal states. The
"La mujer es, ante todo y sobre todo, madre. El instinto de la maternidad es en ella
much mis fuerte que el de la sexualidad...
Unamuno further expresses words in Niebla that suggest the paradox of
simultaneously seeking and escaping from the propagation of the species. This idea is included
in the general meaning of this quote describing the opposing currents of paradox:
"Por debajo de esta corriente de nuestra existencia, por dentro de ella, hay otra
corriente en sentido contrario; aquf vamos del ayer al mariana, alli se va del mariana
al ayer. Se teje y
se desteje a un tiempo.
Y de vez en cuando nos llegan hilitos,
vahos y hasta rumors misteriosos de ese otro mundo, de
ese interior de nuestro
mundo. Las entrafias de la historic con una contrahistoria, es un process inverso al
que ella sigue. El rfo subterrineo va del mar a la fuente. (Obras completes
The foregoing words of Unamuno in his Niebla suggest his skillful fluency with
paradox. These words not only imply the paradoxical stream of his consciousness, but
also the easy flow of his expression of this way of thinking. Metaphors such as "opposite
flowing currents" and "subterranean rivers" constitute part of Unamuno's
device by which he sweeps the mind of the reader into the currents of paradoxical
thought whose constant changing keeps challenging dogma.
As his words imply, Unamuno uses paradox in order to authenticate it, and this
authentication validates his use of paradox. The dogmatic and monodimensional
absoluteness of literal interpretation, when compared with its opposing paradoxical
mode, shows the latter to prevail. Unamuno's words suggest that paradox, because of its
fluid and vibrant dynamism, prevails over staid and unyielding dogma
imagination of a given author outlives the latter through his or her works. The fictional
transcend historical limits, whereas the real life span of his author is confined to a
relatively brief period in history.
Yet it is Cervantes and not Don Quixote who existed in reality. In Niebla,
Unamuno questions this "reality," making his protagonist Augusto ask Unamuno's
persona in the fiction:
-Bueno; pues no
se incomode tanto si yo, a mi
dudo de la existencia de usted y
no de la mifa propia.
Vamos a cuentas: ,No ha sido usted el que, no una, sino varias
veces, ha dicho que Don Quijote y Sancho son, no ya tan reales, sino mis reales
que Cervantes? (Obras completes 2 667)
The imagination and the consciousness of the reader to this day, many years after
the end of Unamuno's earthly existence, revive and vivify Augusto P6rez and the other
characters of Niebla with every moment of the reading. Yet Unamuno existed, while the
fictitious characters never did. Documentation proving the existence and the works of
Unamuno, as well as his effects in the Casa Museo of Unamuniana in Salamanca still
exist. Nonetheless, they owe their significance to fictional characters, and only
storytellers and ink marks on parchment bespeak the paradoxically unreal reality of the
fictitious beings. Thus Niebla spurs the reader to question such matters as reality,
existence, consciousness, and the paradoxical power of the word.
Unamuno's words suggest that paradox is the highest form of sincerity that can be
mistaken for hypocrisy. As Abellin remarks, some well-intended but misled critics
misinterpret Unamuno's paradox for hypocrisy and atheism (141-42). Abellan eventually
refutes allegations of hypocrisy, and praises Unamuno's sincerity (147-48).
reflexively misinterpret him. Trapped within the limitations of superficial and erroneous
appearances, Unamuno's decriers label him as atheist.
Regarding Unamuno's religiosity, or lack of it, Abellin offers many diverse ideas
and opinions from a psychoanalytic perspective. He interprets Unamuno's spiritualism as
it relates to myths, the image of the deity as "vengeful father" and/or "forgiving mother,"
and pantheistic mysticism (211-23). In reflecting some of these influences, the words of
Niebla insinuate the paradoxical idea that one constantly changes while pursuing a
constant and unchanging deity. Writing Niebla is one of Unamuno's ways of struggling
with his faith and his doubt. It is the interchangeability of deity, author, fictional
characters, and readers and their positions as hypothetical metaphors for each other that
make Niebla important for an exploration of Unamuno's use of paradox.
The paradoxes of this metafiction serve as a technique with which Unamuno struggles
with the doubts and faith of his unusual and iconoclastic spirituality. When Unamuno says
that he cannot live without contradiction, a deep probing of his words reveal more than the
fact that he means the opposite of what he says. If he is contradicting himself while he is
saying that he cannot live without contradiction, he wants his audience to consider the fact that
he can indeed live without contradiction. His use of ambiguity, inconsistency, self-
contradiction, and paradox is not an intention to confuse. Rather, Unamuno means to free his
audience from the yoke of enslaving dogmatic conclusiveness. This is what Unamuno's words
The paradox of Niebla's metafiction presents a range of possibilities. Unamuno's words
more or less real than the author. The goal is to enrich the mind of the reader by presenting
opposing possibilities. The consciousness so expanded may better control the emotional
nostalgia that tends to resist the mind's adherence to the beauty of harmonized polarities.
The awakening to paradox unsettles the false familiarity of dogma to which the
unaware reader may have clung. Unamuno's wording connotes the existence of truth as relative
to the observer's experience of beauty. The reader's absorption of the value of opposing
ideas presented together is one way by which Niebla quickens the mind to a sense of truth.
Unamuno's wordage of self-contradiction hints of a reverbatory engendering of truth through
the beauty of paradox. This is the paradox of all theses being compatible with the antitheses
that challenge them. An example of this is the issue of the umbrella that the text of Niebla
It would seem that the usefulness of the open umbrella reflects truth by virtue of its
utilitarian practicality. The common poetic notion of truth and beauty emanating from each
other would thereby make the open umbrella beautiful, while the closed umbrella would
have less beauty for its relative uselessness. This hypothesis reflects the hidden paradox
in character Augusto's soliloquy in Niebla:
iEstaba tan elegant, tan esbelto, plegado y dentro de su funda! Un paraguas
cerrado es tan elegant como es feo un paraguas abierto.
"Es una desgracia esto de tener que servirse uno de las cosas
que usarlas. El uso estropea y hasta destruye toda belleza... A
- pens6 Augusto
Lqui, en esta pobre vida, no
nos cuidamos sino de servimos de Dios; pretendemos abrirlo, como a un paraguas,
para que nos proteja de toda suerte de males." (Obras completes 2 557)
The foregoing reflects the dichotomy between both the aesthetic and utilitarian
Although Unamuno is conscientious and intentional about his using paradox while
he writes, his words imply that much of his use of it may be spontaneous rather than
planned. One may detect this in his novels and his essays.
The following chapter,
"Chapter 4: Paradox in Unamuno's Del sentimiento trigico
de la vida (1913)", explores this essay for Unamuno's contradictory expression. Not only
does the text suggest his intended ambiguities, but as in the preceding chapter, it also
elicits potential interpretations of paradox of which Unamuno may have not been aware.
One example would be Unamuno's thoughts on reality and unreality. The hypothetical
relativity of each entity resuscitates paradoxes that are only indirectly linked to the
sources from which Unamuno formulates his own paradoxical ideas.
PARADOX IN UNAMUNO'S DEL SENTIMIENTO TRAGICO DE LA
No author can know every potential interpretation of his or her words. Paradoxes
that Unamuno did not consciously intend may appear to the reader. Such a case is
suggested by the words in Unamuno's
essay Del sentimiento trigico de la vida. From the
outset of this work, his words imply his automatic paradoxical bent. He negates the
absoluteness of words by making them relative, so that there is no absolute reality or
The extent of a thing being real is determined by how it compares to everything
When Unamuno says
lo realmente real
que la raz6n
construye sobre irracionalidades" (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 24),
suggest that some things can be real without being "really real." Because reality needs its
absoluteness to sustain itself, making reality relative negates reality, dogma, and
conclusion. Dogmatically, an entity is either real or unreal. Paradoxically, and for
Unamuno, some things are more real than others.
This makes everything simultaneously
real and unreal. Although Unamuno contradicts Hegel by saying that reason is built upon
irrationalities, Hegel's Dialectic lets them both self-oppose.
The paradox in the above case is that Unamuno's idea that he frames with the
terminology "realmente real" negates realness as an absolute value.
If an object or idea is
within the realm of reality. This paradox closely relates to Unamuno's term "mis existe,"
which implies that one thing can exist more than another, which eventually can "less"
exist to the point of nonexistence.
In the same foregoing quote, Unamuno diametrically opposes Hegel. Unamuno's
words "lo real, lo realmente real, es irracional: que la raz6n construye sobre
irracionalidades" imply his determination to establish the meaning of the real and the
rational with a strong and compound use of paradox. Unamuno's words suggest the
reality and the rationality of the idea that neither reality nor rationality can exist. His
words imply that he is authenticating the impossibility for anything to exist, including
With paradox, Unamuno's words insinuate his communication that negates
communication, existence, and knowledge. His words "conocimiento inconciente" [sic]
imply either that one can know without being aware of the fact, or that one can know
during a state of unconsciousness. Unamuno does not distinguish between the two
meanings, but whereas the former possibility is more viable, the latter is a self-
contradictory and oxymoronic paradox.
Mas es menester distinguir aquf entire el deseo o apetito de conocer, aparentemente
y a primera vista, por amor al conocimiento mismo, entire el ansia de probar del
fruto del arbol de la ciencia, y la necesidad de conocer para vivir. Esto -iltimo, que
nos da el conocimiento director e inmediato, y que en cierto sentido, si no pareciese
parad6jico, podrfa llamarse conocimiento inconciente [sic], es comtin al hombre
con los animals, mientras lo que nos distingue de 6stos es el conocimiento
reflexive, el conocer del conocer mismo. (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 38)
Unamuno's words imply his consciousness of the fact that one needs words in order to be
without the use of words.
This is paradoxical because he needs the words to know that he
needs no words to gain access to faith.
Unamuno notes the alliance of doubt and despair that paradoxically forms the
basis of faith that needs no words:
.. la incertidumbre que aliada a la desesperaci6n, forma la base de la fe.
- es no pensar en ello; entregarse confiadamente a los brazos de Dios,
los secrets de cuya providencia son inescudrifiables." Si; pero tambi6n la
es no pensar en ello. Esa fe absurda, esa fe sin sombra de incertidumbre,
esa fe de esttipidos carboneros,
se une a la incredulidad absurda, a
sin sombra de incertidumbre, a la incredulidad de los intelectuales atacados de
estupidez afectiva, para no pensar en ello. (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 1
Unamuno's words suggest that one needs words to experience doubt, but only the absence
of words can precipitate the faith that springs from the doubt. The implication is that first
there is language, or the word, which begets consciousness, which begets doubt.
However, doubt can engender faith only when the doubter discards the language that
caused the doubt.
Words are the temporary scaffolds that consciousness and ensuing
doubt require, and only upon removing the scaffolds of language, can the faith emerge.
The above paradoxical piecemeal process is instantaneous, in which case it
paradoxically cannot be called a process. It is rather the "leap to faith," the
Kierkegaardian concept that Unamuno
as the union of doubt with despair from which
faith springs. Also, he says,
el hombre, por ser hombre, por tener conciencia,
ya, respect al burro o a un cangrejo, un animal enfermo. La conciencia es una
enfermedad" (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 34).
Unamuno's words make no insinuation as to whether the germs of the disease are
alliance forms the basis of faith. In turn, faith annihilates the antecedents that create it. By
this implication, language, consciousness, doubt, and despair constitute the formula for
Unamuno's words imply that faith needs no words, but words are paradoxically
needed to know this. His words suggest that the visceral essence of his faith that escapes
reason and logic provides access to his deity that transcends the words of reason and the
logic of language. His words suggest the impossibility of saying anything about the deity
or any other word or name associated with the deity. The divinity of the deity is totally
disconnected from language, even though Unamuno needs the connections of words to
say this: "
es indefinible. Querer definir a Dios
es pretender limitarlo en nuestra
mente, es decir, matarlo" (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 163).
While saying that God
is indefinable, Unamuno is defining God. The paradox further intensifies as Unamuno's
own words speak simultaneously of destroying and recreating a belief by means of
Regarding the creating or inventing of a belief in a deity, Unamuno shows further
paradox. He first disdains a saying about the need to invent God if God did not exist:
Y nada hemos de decir de aquella frase abyecta e innoble de "si no hubiera Dios
habria que inventarlo"
. Esta es la expresi6n del inmundo escepticismo de los
conservadores, de los que estiman que la religion es un resort de gobierno, y cuyo
interns es que haya en la otra vida infierno para los que aquf
intereses mundanos. (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 126)
se oponen a sus
The first paradox in this quote is that Unamuno is saying that nothing should be said
about what he is saying. He expresses a second paradox regarding this quote when he
passionate sincerity, has faith in an idol. Unamuno's words imply validation of the latter
"Si de dos hombres
- dice Kierkegaard
- reza el uno al verdadero Dios con
insinceridad personal, y el otro con la pasi6n toda de la infinitud reza a un idolo, es
el primero el que en realidad ora a un idolo, mientras que el segundo ora en verdad
a Dios." Mejor es decir que es Dios verdadero Aquel a quien se reza y se anhela de
Y hasta la superstici6n misma puede ser mis reveladora que la teologia.
(Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 171-72)
These words of Unamuno imply his belief that what matters more is one's faith in a
deity, rather than whether or not the deity really exists. This belief of Unamuno
contradicts the previous scorn that he expresses against the idea that the nonexistence of a
deity would necessitate the invention of one. Unamuno's words imply that the object of
one's faith is far less important than the faith itself. In so stating, he suggests his approval
of creating to believe, or inventing a deity existent or not. Unamuno's words suggest not
only his own self-contradictions, but he also cites paradoxical words of others, such as
Miguel de Molinos:
. el alma que asf se sabe solamente despegar es la que se llega a perder en
ios, y s6lo la que asi se llega a perder es la que se acierta a hallar". Muy espafic
Molinos, sf, y no menos espafiola esta parad6jica expresi6n de quietismo o mis
bien de nihilismo
... (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 206)
As usual, Unamuno's words imply his attitude that Spain has a monopoly on a universal
detail, such as the paradoxical essence of existence and the human consciousness of
existence. Although this impression may be the result of the theatrical manner in which
writers in the Romance literatures, particularly Spanish, highlight paradox, it would seem
that Unamuno's vast knowledge of literatures of other languages, such as English,
Bible, whose multi-lingual development he compares with Don Quixote. He implies that
the latter could effect a new cult.
In Del sentimiento tragico de la vida, Unamuno says:
Y yo di un jmuera Don Quijote!, y de esta blasfemia, que querfa decir todo lo
contrario que decfa asf estibamos entonces -, brot6 mi Vida de Don Quijote v
Sancho y mi culto al quijotismo como religion national. (278)
The fictional Don Quixote, habitually adored by Unamuno as a Christ-like icon,
suddenly appears to be the target of his wrath. Unamuno is actually resuscitating what he
He thus tries to show that all passion, if intense enough, makes no distinction
between love and hate, adoration and denigration, or life and death. His visceral passion
harmonizes all opposing emotions, so that the opposite of life is not death. For Unamuno,
the opposite of the life/death entity is apathy. Only through the visceral passions can one
act strongly enough to be alive, and the only true opposite of intense passion for anything
is beyond apathy it is the absence of consciousness. This relates to Unamuno's
preference to consciously suffer an eternity of anguish and pain over unconscious
oblivion and the loss of self-identity that oblivion entails. He connects passion with
paradox. While Unamuno curses Don Quixote, he says that he is contradicting himself.
This example of intense passion equalizing opposing emotions shows Unamuno's desire
to keep Don Quixote alive, as opposed to those Cervantine scholars who relegate the
fictional heroic knight to dead ink marks on parchment. In reference to his Vida de Don
Quijote v Sancho, Unamuno's explanation reflects his antipathy for systematized logic:
Escribi aquel libro para repensar el Quijote contra cervantistas y eruditos, para
If 4 I I I 4 1 1 -
concrete. iY es que acaso no hay en Goethe, verbigracia, tanta o mas filosoffa que
en Hegel? (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 278-79)
Unamuno's above words suggest that Spanish philosophy is concrete for not being
based on philosophical systems. It would seem that the reverse is more logical because
systems make philosophy more concrete. In comparing the works of Goethe and Hegel,
Unamuno fails to differentiate between two uses of philosophy. That of Goethe is more
subtly intimated in the tone of his fictions, whereas Hegel's works more directly and
concretely express philosophy with the rationale of Hegelian systems.
Whether or not
Unamuno deliberately misuses the term "concrete" as an excuse or base from which to
wax paradoxical is moot. There is no way by which to guage the extent of how deliberate
or accidental is his placing of words. Unamuno, Socratic gadfly that he is, succeeds in
rousing his reader with unexpected and somewhat jarring declarations. He does this
especially with self-contradiction and paradox. Nonetheless, he fails to explain what he
says, and his words suggest his unawareness, not only of this particular failure, but also
of the fact that his lack of explanation weakens the intended impact of his message. As an
example, his lack of explaining why he curses Don Quixote deprives the reader of the
enlightenment that Unamuno obviously wants to impart. He says only,
.. de esta
blasfemia, que queria decir todo lo contrario que decia... brot6 ... mi culto al
quijotismo como religion national" (Del sentimiento tragico de la vida 278).
While at once cursing and blessing his hero, Unamuno shows that the visceral
passions of emotion bypass logic and reason to the point of blurring the line between
compounds the paradox, as his self-contradictory texts reflect the perpetual and
paradoxically simultaneous solution of, and inability to resolve the conflict between faith
In the above case, as in many others, the circularity of Hegel's Triadic Dialectic
Unamuno to "reach" a Synthesis that he "cannot" reach because of the Synthesis
automatically becoming a new Thesis. Unamuno's words imply influence of Hegel, from
whose paradoxical system Unamuno finds reasons why mindless passions are needed to at
once curse and bless Don Quixote.
Thus, while cursing the fabled knight, Unamuno says that he means the exact
Instead of restraining his emotions, he gives vent to them. He rails against the
legendary icon that inspires his deepest adulation. Unamuno aims to convince his reader
of the value of paradox, yet he does not explain why he so blatantly and boastfully
contradicts himself. Based on what his words imply, he is not ambivalent about the fact
that he needs ambivalence.
"Fixing" the exact position of his thought that eludes being
fixed, he stays inscrutable, and his antipathy for conclusion justifies his withholding
explanations. His words suggest his aim to show the reader the values of paradox.
Unamuno challenges the reader to analyze the implications of his self-contradictory
He thereby encourages the reader to overcome shallow-minded submission to
conclusive dogma. The formidable and imposing demands of playful paradox replace the
tyranny of received assumptions. As the consciousness evolves and expands, a
philological process provides deeper understanding of how a word can have two opposite
overcome the limitations of their definitions. From this perspective, one may better
understand the paradox of Unamuno cursing what he most adores.
Because of the arbitrariness of language, dogmatic conclusions are more apt to
tempt their antitheses. The concreteness of certainty is challenged by the abstractness of
uncertainty. The randomness of evolving words fuses philology with paradox.
Unamuno's words imply his understanding that paradox and language exist in a
perpetual process of mutual invention. His comments on philology suggest that there can
be no paradox without words, and that there can be no words without paradox. While the
random nature of language negates reason, it is language that creates reason. Unamuno
es, pues, en el fondo, filologfa. Y la filologia, con su grande y
fecunda ley de las formaciones anal6gicas, da su parte al azar, a lo irracional, a lo
absolutamente inconmensurable" (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 280).
Unamuno's words imply that, even though reason depends on words, the
randomness of words invalidates reason. Each idea is subject to the arbitrary whim of the
language that contains the idea, including this idea that Unamuno expresses, even while
he is expressing it.
While paradox is negating preconceived assumptions of rationality, it
is this same paradoxical process that establishes and concretizes rationality.
Although Unamuno admits to his being self-contradictory, his literature rarely
shows that he analyzes or dissects his paradoxicalness. This could mean one or both of
two things: he wants his readers to dissect his works as a useful process by which to learn
paradox, or he is so enmeshed in paradox, that he is not always fully conscious of the
honor the collectivity of ethnic identity, even as he paradoxically praises quasi-solipsistic
"Y esto de que el individuo sea el fin del Universe lo sentimos muy bien nosotros
los espafioles" (Del sentimiento tragico de la vida 281).
The above words suggest the paradox of individual subjectivity as it relates to the
collectivity of the people of a nation. Unamuno's words imply his aim to use paradox as a
means to distract his readers and to awaken them by the distraction that may make them
more receptive to the importance of paradox. Based on this Unamunian tactic, the
following sheds light on his use of paradox and distraction as a means to mutually
To reiterate, the last words of Del sentimiento trigico de la vida show Unamuno
blessing his readers with glory at the expense of peace (295). Unamuno's words imply
that peace is an illusion that distracts one from the reality that existence demands the
struggle to overcome, and that one's best hope is for the glory of overcoming challenges.
Moreover, each experience of glory only prepares one to meet the next inevitable
challenge. Unamuno aims to distract his readers by denying them peace, and he further
distracts them by blessing them with the glory that can only serve as a way station en
route of an eternal journey. For Unamuno and for his readers, glory is in the process of
distracting his readers from unattainable goals of peace. Unamuno precedes his blessing
of glory with this clearly paradoxical proposal: "
. para distraerte un poco de tus
distracciones, me propuse" (295).
4W--* S 4 4* 4 4 4 J4* 1__ *
deeper insight and appreciation of paradox. Unamuno enlightens his reader through
distraction. His following words imply that one of his ways of distracting the reader is by
proudly voicing the virtues of self-contradiction:
Alguien podr6 ver un fondo de contradicci6n en todo cuanto voy diciendo,
anhelando unas veces la vida inatacable, y diciendo otras que esta vida no tiene el
valor que se le da. ,Contradicci6n? iYa lo creo! iLa de mi coraz6n, que dice si, y mi
cabeza, que dice no! Contradicci6n, naturalmente. iQui6n no recuerda aquellas
palabras del Evangelio: "iSefior, creo; ayuda a mi incredulidad!"? iContradicci6n!,
inaturalmente! Como que s6lo vivimos de contradicciones, y por ellas; como que la
vida es tragedia, y la tragedia es perpetua lucha, sin victoria ni esperanza de ella; es
contradicci6n. (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 31)
An analysis of the above words of Unamuno demands an approach from at least
two separate levels with distinct and unrelated purposes. One purpose is to cite examples
of his self-contradiction. The other is to cite his consecutive expressions that are
unrelated and non sequitur.
What Unamuno is saying does not cohere with a rational flow
of consciousness. Either he is deliberately presenting a barrage of discrete statements so
as to distract the reader, or he is unaware that his writing may be showing a momentary
lack of logic.
Unamuno's first statement in the above quote deems existence as being at once
valuable and worthless. This is a clear example of the self-contradiction and paradox
that Unamuno so proudly champions. He then alludes to the conflict between the
visceral faith of the heart and the logical reasoning of the mind. This expression
flows smoothly from the previous statement. One has faith that life is valuable, but
reason dictates the opposite. Unamuno then suggests that one can live only in and
_- -- .-- r *- 4
without victory or the hope of victory, life is contradiction. Moreover, the lack of
victory or hope of victory is unrelated to the fact that life is contradiction.
Some readers of Del sentimiento trigico de la vida may initially presume to find
fault and deficiencies in Unamuno's craftsmanship as a philosophical essayist because of
the inconsistencies and disconnectedness in his writing. In fact, he is consciously and
purposely manipulating his readers by distracting them with such disconnectedness. He
is ever acutely mindful and conscious of what he is writing.
consciousness, the eternal loss of which bases his fear of death,
may be his most cherished possession, next to paradox.
Yet his self-contradictory
view regarding consciousness is extremely negative: "La conciencia
enfermedad" (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 34). Unamuno's words then imply the
identicalness of disease and progress,
in reference to the tasting of the fruit of the tree
of knowledge (36).
Unamuno's words suggest that consciousness is a "disease" because to be conscious
forces one to struggle and to be "without ease." He also implies that progress is a disease,
for the same reason. If the human condition is no better today than it was at the beginning
of known civ
ization, progress is a cruel delusion. Thus the erroneous assumption of
universal progress is more without ease than the nonexistent progress itself. Unamuno's
word for "disease," "enfermedad," from the Latin "infirmus," or "not firm," suggests its
relation to the word "unstable." Thus, if both consciousness and "progress" derive from
the instability caused by eating of Eden's
Forbidden Fruit, one may better understand
Y acaso la enfermedad misma sea la condici6n esencial de lo que llamamos
progress, y el progress mism'
6rbol de la ciencia del bien y a
leyenda, del pecado original.
o una enfermedad..
.. Les prohibi6 probar del fruto del
del mal... Porque el progress arranca, segin esta
(Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 36)
Unamuno's text implies that he interprets this part of the Bible as meaning that the
human being should know only enough for basic survival, and that any knowledge
beyond that is superfluous and sinful. This is paradoxical because it runs counter to the
mission to overcome the animal state by aspiring to the spiritual realm, of which animals
are incapable. This is supposed to distinguish the human from the lower animal form.
Unamuno differentiates between the desire to "needlessly" know for the sake of
knowledge, and the need to know only enough to sustain primitive survival. He refers to
the latter as paradoxical "unconscious knowledge," without citing the chance that this
spontaneous knowledge is not by a single being, but by groups, such as swarms of
insects. Humans and beasts share the spontaneity of visceral instinct. The difference is
that the single beast is unaware that it knows, while the human being has the reflective
knowledge of realizing that he or she indeed knows. Unamuno's text implies as much, as
... si no pareciese parad6jico, podria llamarse conocimiento inconciente, es comtin
al hombre con los animals, mientras lo que nos distingue de 6stos es el
conocimiento reflexive, el conocer del conocer mismo. (Del sentimiento trigico de
la vida 38)
Visceral emotions, both animal and human, figure strongly with Unamuno's ideas
on faith. His words suggest that one does not get faith through reason or logic, even
though it is reasonable to embrace faith for the comfort that it provides. His words imply
would expect the opposite, if the human being is indeed at a higher spiritual level than the
Unamuno's views on the origins of homo sapiens are very paradoxical. He goes
from the Creationist theory of Genesis directly into the Evolutionist hypothesis of the
origins of the human being.
With the former, he elucidates with the usual key names in
Genesis, such as Eve, the Fall, Redemption, God, et cetera. He then offers another
"version of our origin." Unamuno now discusses how the descent of the human from the
apes is a "diseased" situation that leads to constructive and positive consequences.
Unamuno's words imply that it is the mutant quality and the imperfections of the human
that lead to superior human intelligence, by way of development of the hands and
El agua qufmicamente pura es impotable. Y la sangre fisiol6gicamente pura, tno
acaso tambi6n inapta para el cerebro del mamifero vertical que tiene que vivir del
aptitud de po
y son las manos, como es sabido, grandes fraguadores de
Y esa misma posici6n le puso pulmones, triquea, laringe y boca en
der articular lenguaje, y la palabra es inteligencia. (Del sentimiento
trigico de la vida 37)
Thus for Unamuno, the road to evolution from ape to human is paved with negative
attributes such as imperfections, deficiencies, and mutation. His words suggest the
paradox of hope and faith that spring from the negativity of human existence. Regarding
faith, as with most everything he says, Unamuno delivers paradox in what he says and in
how he says it. He both refers to paradox and states these references in a paradoxical
manner. One may speak of paradox in a nonparadoxical manner, and one may speak in a
1* 1 1 ...* fr .. t. A.1 .. 1
knowledge, citing the former as being more important than the latter, Del sentimiento
trigico de la vida shows Unamuno saying:
El career es una forma de conocer, siquiera no fuese otra cosa que conocer nuestro
anhelo vital y hasta formularlo. S61o que el t6rmino career tiene en nuestro lenguaje
corriente una double y hasta contradictoria significaci6n, queriendo decir, por una
parte, el mayor grado de adhesi6n de la mente a un conocimiento como verdadero,
y de otra parte una d6bil y vacilante adhesion. Pues si en un sentido career algo
mayor asentimiento que caber dar, la expresi6n "creo que sea asi, aunque no estoy
de ello seguro"
, es corriente y vulgar..
. La fe mas robusta
se basa en
... La fe supone un element personal objetivo. (180)
The last words are oxymoronic and contradictory, because the words "personal" and
"objetivo" are virtually opposites, especially regarding faith. If Unamuno is unaware of
this paradox, his words at least imply his faith in their authenticity.
Three words ("duda," "ateos," and "negaci6n") in the following quote imply
Unamuno's faith in the paradoxical idea that true faith requires a certain amount of doubt:
Los que sin pasi6n de inimo, sin congoja, sin incertidumbre,
desesperaci6n en el consuelo, creen career en Dios mismo...
demonios creen en Dios, y muchos ateos.
sin duda, sin la
Que tambi6n los
. y se desesperan y niegan por
desesperaci6n, y al negar, afirman y crean lo que niegan, y Dios se revela en ellos,
afirmindose por la negaci6n de sf mismo. (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 185)
In this same work, Unamuno observes the situation"
. ofr en su interior su voz sin
" (186). This is paradoxical because if thoughts require the presence of
words, surely voices need words even more. Notwithstanding, and indeed more
paradoxically, body language, which is even stronger than voices, needs no words.
The meaning that a given text communicates to a critic is closely related to the
latter's connection to a doubt/faith dynamics. This is a process associated with the
.- ru 1*'..--------1 L _AI 4...' -. ^ .L -At ^ -- .L-^AA4- ^ 4 ,.,, .. ^*/r 4- j Ar<- n.'.;n ;- tr l inyitf/
noncontradiction, the latter are just as easy to critique because dogmatic statements beg
the challenge of inquiry and doubt, especially when the critic is determined and engrossed
in the particular pursuit of paradox.
Being so intent, the critic needs no explicit paradox within the text of the target
author. Paradoxically, a nonparadoxical dogmatic statement is nonetheless paradoxical
just by virtue of being dogmatic.
For example, Unamuno dogmatically declares that he is
self-contradictory, moreover suggesting that there can be no existence without
contradiction and paradox (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 31). In effect, Unamuno can
mean the exact opposite of what he says.
This negates the polarities of dogma and
so that both are one and the same. By this rationale, anything is possible. Every
truth is false, and every falsity is true. For example, one could say that everything exists
and nothing exists. Unamuno comes close to saying this, but the Cartesian cogito gets in
his way. So he settles by saying that maybe nothing exists except his own consciousness
and its perceptions. The following shows one of Unamuno's rare ventures into the
solipsistic facet of his consciousness, which sharply contradicts the customary and more
prevailing social aspect of his awareness:
es, en efecto, existir y cudndo decimos que una cosa existe? Existir es ponerse
algo de tal modo fuera de nosotros, que precediera a nuestra percepci6n de ello y
pueda subsistir fuera cuando desaparezcamos. iY estoy acaso seguro de que algo
me precediera o de que algo me ha de sobrevivir? ,Puede mi conciencia saber que
hay algo fuera de ella? Cuanto conozco o puedo conocer esta en mi conciencia. No
nos enredemos, pues, en el insoluble problema de otra objetividad de nuestras
percepciones, sino que existe cuando obra, y existir
trigico de la vida 187-88)
es obrar. (Del sentimiento
n-n~~I *I P. **-U
- -- --
the self is the only reality." This theory is extremely paradoxical because the "self"
perceives this definition from an "objective" source external to the perceiver. Unamuno
compounds the paradox by mentioning an objectivity beyond the observer's perceptions.
If nothing can exist until it is perceived, objectivity could not exist. Once objectivity is
perceived, it likewise cannot exist because the perception of objectivity lies within the
confines of the mind of the perceiver. Thus Unamuno's mention of objectivity contradicts
his discussion on solipsism. Unamuno further shows his inconsistency at the end of the
quote. He states that a thing can exist only if it acts. This is valid from the Heraclitian
view of all things being in a process of flux, which constitutes action. Where Unamuno's
statement is not valid is in its irrelevance to all of the quote on solipsism that precedes it.
Moreover, this irrelevance is more blatant because Unamuno, purposely or not, states this
without so much as beginning a new sentence.
Thus Unamuno is theorizing that he cannot verify that anything can exist outside
his mind and its perceptions. He is theorizing that whether objectivity can or cannot exist
is an insoluble problem. He is stating that to exist is to act, and that the existence of an
entity depends on its action. These separate ideas share the fact that they beg to be
explored and analyzed for authenticity. Unamuno's criteria of what constitutes truth or
falsity lies within an array of possibilities. Based on what he says, he deals with this array
from the perspective that most fulfills him. It is this perspective of self-contradiction,
inconsistency, and paradox that is Unamuno's most convenient, reliable, and effective
examples of this is his distinction between the existence of God and the action of God
making the person believe. Unamuno's
words imply that it is the idea of God's action
within the person that makes God existent: "Y aquf volveri a decirse que no es Dios, sino
a idea de Dios, la que obra en nosotros" (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 188).
The above implies that God exists because God's action within the individual makes
the belief. Paradoxical is the fact that if God did not exist, individual's would invent God,
and this invention would be the result of God's action to make the individual believe. The
paradox is that God exists even without existing. Unamuno's words imply not only that
truth based on faith is just as valid as truth based on reason, but that both kinds of truth
are, at some level, one and the same. Nonetheless, based on Unamuno's idea that an entity
must act in order to exist, sameness needs further exploration.
Sameness, as all other entities, abstract or concrete, needs to act in order to exist.
Action is a process of change. Thus sameness must change in order to act, and it must act
in order to exist. That which changes does not stay the same. Thus sameness must be
nonexistent in order to exist. This paradox extends to the Heraclitus/Parmenides
dichotomy of all things changing versus all things staying the same. In this sense, that
which exists does not exist due to permanent change. This is why Unamuno sees reason
and logic as impossible, and faith as the only thing left for him. He paradoxically arrives
at this conclusion through his sense of reason.
He concludes that nothing can be
concluded, and that there can be no faith without doubt. Paradox so permeates his nature
that he cannot write without it. Unamuno says:
Unamuno is certain that nothing is certain; he reasons that faith is unreasonable, and his
words imply his faith in this paradoxical way of reasoning as being at once reasonable
and unreasonable. The operative phrase here is "at once." It is about simultaneity. It is
Unamuno discusses the element of time:
Atamos el ayer al mafiana con eslabones de ansia, y no
cosa que el esfuerzo del antes por hacerse despu6s; no i
es el ahora, en rigor otra
es el present, sino el
empefio del pasado por hacerse porvenir. El ahora es un punto que no bien
pronunciado se disipa, y, sin embargo, en
ese punto esti la eternidad toda, sustancia
del tiempo. (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 189)
Unamuno's above words suggest that time is at once both existent and nonexistent
because of the evanescence of its three components. The past perpetually vanishes, while
it is all that remains. The present is all there is, while it is never here. The future constantly
turns the present into the past, even though the future never arrives.
The perception of time is betrayed by the paradoxical interactions of the three
components. Does Unamuno's text imply that time could be divided in alternative
acculturated ways, or do his words suggest that past, present, and future constitute an
immutable law of metaphysics? Could a new kind of consciousness relate to a different
kind of relationship between the three components of time and the linguistic signs that
label them? How could one use Unamuno's paradoxical ideas about time as a means by
which to actualize these possibilities?
Even if there were answers to such questions about the existence and nonexistence
of time, they would be superfluous for Unamuno. It is enough for him to formulate
al negar, afirman y crean lo que niegan .
" (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 185).
He does not follow this contradiction with any words that could clarify his reason for
saying it. This is an example of deliberate contradiction. Nevertheless, he indulges,
seemingly unaware, in a paradox by diminishing the importance of knowledge in favor of
the visceral emotions of love and faith: "
la ciencia sin amor nos aparta de Dios, y
el amor, aun sin ciencia y acaso mejor sin ella, nos lleva a Dios
" (Del sentimiento
tragico de la vida 186). Even though love and faith may be more important than
Unamuno depends on his knowledge of what he is saying in order to say it.
Another paradox in this work by Unamuno reads: "Y esto de que el individuo sea el
fin del Universo lo sentimos muy bien nosotros los espafioles" (281).
cites the collectivity of an ethnic group to praise individualism. Although his foregoing
words do not imply his intention of paradox,
the following quote suggests a stronger
awareness of it: "Y es que Men6ndez y Pelayo, cuya filosofia era, ciertamente, todo
" (282). The intention here is obvious.
Unamuno intends to be paradoxical so that he can laugh at the world and at himself
as a means to relieve the stress and tedium of the struggle of existence.
Another reason is
that his social conscience makes him let the masses mock him so as to neutralize the
elitist air that his lofty academic position causes.
Unamuno assuages the gravity of his intellectual mien by gloating over his ironic
self-contradiction and paradox. The masses instinctively resent and mistrust those of lofty
status, be it that of political power or academic influence,
so Unamuno mocks himself
detractors by letting them overcome him with derision. In this respect, he self-identifies
with the prime butt of ridicule in the literary world, Don Quixote.
Unamuno cites in Del sentimiento trigico de la vida, the case of his Cervantine
hero, the "knight of sad countenance":
sigue animdndonos a que nos pongamos en ridicule,
no debe morir
Y Dios se ri6 paternalmente de 61,
y esta risa divina le llen6 de felicidad eterna el
alma ... Ese Quijote interior que os decia, conciente de su propia trigica
comicidad, tno es un desesperado? ... Pero "es la desesperaci6n duefia de los
imposibles", nos ensefia Salazar y Torres ... y es de la desesperaci6n y s6lo de ella
de donde nace la esperanza heroica, la esperanza absurda, la esperanza loca. Spero
quia absurdum, debia decirse, mas bien que credo toda una esperanza en lo
absurdo racional. (290-91)
The foregoing excerpts from Unamuno's text reflect some of the influence that the
novel Don Quixote and its title protagonist have upon Unamuno's paradoxical thought.
His words imply that the glory of hope springs from the gloom of despair. Likewise, in
the quixotic sense, great heroism springs from the interaction between internal and
external ridicule. It is a paradox that self-mockery at once stirs up a barrage of
derision against victims while they defend against the onslaught. So imply
Unamuno's words in Del sentimiento trigico de la vida, as he discusses Don Quixote:
"Y lo mis grande de 61 fue haber sido burlado y vencido, porque siendo vencido es
como vencfa; dominaba al mundo dindole que refr de 61" (291).
Albeit not burlesque, one Unamunian novel is quasi-quixotic. The next chapter,
Paradox in Unamuno's San Manuel Bueno, martir (1933)", shows only one
obvious similarity between the protagonist parish priest and Don Quixote. They share
1 I ---- ....-.- _- 1 .----- ------- 1---- ..L -- t1 .--- *.lki 11 :A ., 4-- J-fl
problem is guilt, whereas the knight suffers comic but perilous visions. With Unamuno's
paradoxical pastor, only the irony hints of humor.
PARADOX IN UNAMUNO'S SAN MANUEL BUENO, MARTIR (1933)
Some of the paradoxes that Unamuno expresses in his final novel seem to result
from his ambiguous and self-contradictory bent. The setting of San Manuel Bueno, m.rtir
reflects a brooding and moody atmosphere, as if Unamuno were wrapping his ambiguity
and nonconclusiveness in a mist, thereby enabling the reader to more easily suspend his
or her habitual thought processes.
There is much diversity among critics in regards to how they respond to and
interpret what Unamuno writes in this novel. For example, Navajas discusses how
Unamuno projects his views on politics through his protagonist Don Manuel. The
message seems to reflect Unamuno's being in favor of democracy without hierarchy, and
the quality of being "social" without being socially active, lest politics erode one's
The element of paradox is never far from Unamuno's thought. His protagonist, the
parish priest Don Manuel, reflects the author's harmonizing of opposites. His vocation
assuages his fear of solitude, while allowing him to maintain his strong sense of
individuality. He cleaves to his parishioners while cleaving himself from them. He is
fulfilled by their acceptance of and belief in his promise of redemption and heaven, while
he cannot believe in the dogma he preaches. The sadness and gloom of the novel is in
Unamuno's guilt-ridden doubt of his
faith. His words imply this impressionistic quasi-
mystical ambiance. This sets the tone for the paradox that dominates the theme of the
A parish priest dedicates his life to his flock, especially the poor and the sick. His
devotion interacts with the unbelief that results from his strong sense of logic. He has no
belief in what he preaches, only in the need of his parishioners to believe. He struggles
with the guilt that he feels for three reasons, any one of which would be enough to
emotionally and psychologically torment him.
He feels guilty for not believing in his preaching about salvation and the hereafter,
and he feels guilty for the deception and hypocrisy of preaching what he cannot believe.
He also feels guilty for using his flock as a means to assuage the guilt of his unbelief,
even though this results in his flock's consolation and comfort. Their priest is their only
hope. He gives them a spiritual means for their survival. The more strongly he preaches,
the guiltier he feels, and this result impels
him to preach even more vigorously. Although
this is the predominating paradox of the novel, many other examples appear.
The text has the protagonist saying: "iMi vida, LIAzaro, es una especie de suicidio
continue, un combat contra el suicidio, que es igual
" (Obras completes 2 1144). If
one is always on the verge of suicide without actually committing it, this process of
struggling against self-destruction is a kind of suicide in itself. To indulge such a
desperate attitude of hopelessness compromises one's potential quality of life. This
paradox of equating suicide with resisting suicide relates to the paradox of creating a
belief only for the indigent parishioners. In this way, they live and die with the same
In fact, the "peace" of the rural village allows the priest to live dangerously by more
subtle means. For example, his meditative strolls alongside the lake provide the
temptation to drown himself. Fighting against the siren-like enticement of the lake is the
struggle against suicide, while his customary gravitation to the precipice of a watery
grave constitutes his prolonged "continuous" suicide. Don Manuel comes to uneasy terms
with the identicalness of life and death, two sides of the same paradoxical coin. He craves
death for the guilt of his inability to believe what he hypocritically preaches, and he
craves the self-preservation needed for his ministering to his parishioners. His biological
instinct to survive for his mission predetermines his will to persist. Antithetically, his will
to endure existentially influences his biological instinct. The synthesis for these opposing
forces is the paradoxical ongoing interaction between biology and experiential
environment on the one hand, and the existential free will on the other.
Don Manuel knows that his life is of great necessity and value to his parishioners,
whom he also guiltily uses in his attempt to assuage his guilt. This is the novel's
predominant paradox of the preaching that compounds the very guilt that the preaching is
supposed to assuage. This is what Unamuno's words in San Manuel Bueno, mr'tir imply
as the author uses the paradox of Don Manuel's
simultaneous struggle for and against
suicide. This struggle relates directly to his sense of guilt.
Rather than feeling guilty, Don Manuel should bathe in the spiritual glow of his
blameless and noble heroism, because no two members of an audience can perceive what
one preaches to them in exactly the same way. The gulf between an average individual of
The preacher's personal interpretation of the specific words of the sermon cannot be the
same as the interpretation by the masses who hear his or her words.
Clerics well-versed in various sociological, psychological, and philosophical
disciplines cannot relate to spiritual matters in the same naive simplistic manner as most
of those of the less educated masses. Leaders of any religion must present to their flocks
levels of theology to which the followers may relate. This is not a matter of deliberate
deception or hypocrisy. Don Manuel provides for his parishioners the faith and moral
guidance that they need and want. Faith for the flock is within his sense of pragmatic
reason, and the need to provide this for his flock is the focus of his personal faith.
It is Don Manuel's belief that he must existentially pursue his faith in the need for
his parishioners to believe in the dogma that he cannot believe. He hides this inability to
believe in keeping with the human inclination to keep secret that which causes guilt.
Because of this secrecy, one cannot know to what extent Don Manuel's paradoxical plight
is common to clergy members of all places, times, and faiths. To his confidant, Don
Manuel reveals thoughts that he would never expose to his flock: "LLa verdad? La verdad,
es acaso algo terrible, algo intolerable, algo mortal; la gente sencilla no podria
vivir con ella. ...
y con la verdad, con mi verdad, no vivirfan." (Obras completes
Don Manuel creates for his flock a belief in a dogma, and he creates for himself a
belief in the need to make his flock believe in that which best alleviates their misery. This
is a case in which the truth would set no one free. It would erode the faith and worsen the
Nonetheless, any such compatibility exists only while one is conscious of it. No
consciousness of anything ever remains within an individual with a constancy of intensity.
To reconcile one's faith with reason requires a perpetual reassuring renewal of this
consciousness. This entails endless struggle. Unamuno, and by projection, his protagonist
Don Manuel struggle to reconcile and make compatible faith with reason.
With his protagonist Don Manuel, Unamuno uses paradox by applying tactics for
the priest that are the reverse of his own devices in his nonfictionall" life. For example,
whenever Unamuno is reminded of the limitations of logic and reason, he conveniently
leaps to the visceral comfort of faith without limit. By contrast, whenever his fictional
Don Manuel is reminded of his inability to believe, Unamuno makes his protagonist leap
to the desperation of the limitations of logic and reason. The author's words in his novel
imply that he is trying to assuage his own guilt by making his priest even more guilty
than he is. Even more paradoxical are Unamuno's words that imply his faith in the
persuasive authenticity of paradox. Unamuno has faith in his need to reject faith in
religious dogma and conclusiveness. He has faith that his kind of faith is more authentic
and powerful than the blind faith in the dogma that he rejects. Moreover, his faith in
paradox is strengthened by the doubt which such faith also requires. For Unamuno, the
open-ended inconclusiveness of these paradoxical circularities instills in his readers the
depth of understanding that the relatively superficial plane of dogma cannot reach.
Unamuno is existential because he chooses his world, through his beliefs, with his
free will. He is nonexistential because biological and environmental conditioning
latter's existentialism/non-existentialism is that he can choose only what his creator
Unamuno writes that his choices shall be. This extends forward to whatever choices that
the fictional priest's parishioners make, either collectively or individually, and it extends
back to the forces that decide what Unamuno is to choose. Thus the circularity of the
paradox of existentialism reveals itself with more clarity. The dichotomy of
predeterminism versus free will becomes less problematic when one
operating within a circle of paradoxical harmony.
Navajas sheds light on part of this circle as he comments on Unamuno's projection
of existentialism through the voice of Don Manuel:
Ese personaje actualiza la compleja actitud religiosa de Unamuno. Don Manuel es
un portavoz del autor que, a trav6s de 61, verbaliza su actitud existencial propia del
moment de su vida en el que produce el relate. (81)
The reader of Unamuno's final novel San Manuel Bueno, martir may enhance his or
her appreciation of this work in particular, and of existentialist literature in general, by
considering the forces that spur Unamuno to write as he does. There is the born writer's
need for self-expression. This is filled by informing, entertaining, surprising, or
persuading the reader. These are some of the possible goals of a writer. In Unamuno's
case, his words imply that he writes so as to balance his visceral emotions with his sense
of reason. In order to harmonize the two by neutralizing the discord between them,
Unamuno chooses to effect the paradoxical conclusion that the only possible conclusion
is that no conclusion is possible.
Unamuno's playful phrasing implies the pride of his skill in writing with
use his characters and his readers as means to deal with his emotions. Anticipating the
future reaction of his audience is part of what motivates Unamuno to write. He writes of
Don Manuel as though the protagonist eternally existed only for the purpose of Unamuno
depicting him in print.
Unamuno deals with his conflicts, in part, through the words and deeds that he
assigns to Don Manuel, and through his expectations of the perceptions and interpretations
of his readers.
Another element is the paradoxical negation of the possibility of
For one to claim knowledge of the fact that knowledge is impossible is paradoxical.
Through his character Don Manuel, Unamuno struggles not only to reconcile faith with
reason, but also to determine which of the two better serves the cause of knowledge. One
gains knowledge by learning the limitations of rational knowledge, or reason.
Unamuno existentially chooses his protagonist Don Manuel as a conduit through
which the author voices his response to knowledge acquired through the impact of
literary influences, in combination with personal life experiences. Because his literary
creations lead knowledge out of him (etymology of "educate"), resulting in part of
what he believes, and his beliefs influence what he writes, one can recognize a sameness
of creating and believing ("crear-creer") or at least a close association of interaction.
Unamuno declares: "Porque career en Dios es, en cierto modo, crearle, aunque El nos cree
antes" (Del sentimiento trigico de la vida 153). Throughout this work, Unamuno
repeatedly refers to the relationship between creation and belief.
and the latter makes two plus two equal four. If instinctive and mental knowledge are
identical, it would follow that faith and reason are also identical and reducible to will.
Based on this hypothesis, the will trumps both the instinctive and the mental.
thoughts on knowledge, the arbitrariness of language,
conscience, consciousness, and will, and the paradoxical circularities that determine the
words and manners with which Unamuno interrelates the above entities, Navajas offers
the following observations:
He concluido que en Unamuno el cone
arbitrariedad de un signo lingiiifstico ...
)cimiento sigue a la voluntad y la
El hombre es una conciencia enferma
... El conocimiento conduce a una situaci6n circular, en la que lo que
nos coarta y da dolor es precisamente lo mismo que genera nuestra energia. El
conocimiento perturba al mismo tiempo que crea el dinamismo para el progress.
The above quote implies that Unamuno is opposed to progress and knowledge
because it contaminates the purity of the noble savagery attributed to the less advanced
cultures. This reflects some of Rousseau's influence on Unamuno. This idea is also
coherent with Unamuno's preference for the instinctive spontaneity commonly associated
with less developed peoples over the rationally planned contrivances usually linked to
Navajas refers to Unamuno's development of the mythology of Rousseau's
savage," in which knowledge and civilization are only sick distortions of the "excellent"
state of primordial people who lived in harmony with nature and did not need to know
how to conquer it. Navajas also says that such creatures never existed in reality, and that
yr.- -1.. 1 i r i ,_-_* --- -i ^
Unamuno never strays from the idea that life is a minuscule flash within eternity, whose
re-entrance via death is always present as the predominant element of the overall bucolic
beauty. The text supports this paradoxical concept of life and death being even less than
two sides of the same metaphorical coin. The identicalness of life and death places them on
only one side of the same coin, and this one side is the unity of polarities that is a major
facet that constitutes paradox.
Unamuno's words imply that one is more prone to suicide in a peaceful and serene
natural setting than when faced with the violence of nature. The threat of death forces one
to cling more tenaciously to life, whereas the complacency of contentment and peace is
more conducive to suicidal thoughts. In San Manuel Bueno, mirtir, the text shows
protagonist Don Manuel speaking to his disciple Lizaro:
... la tentaci6n del suicidio es mayor aquf, junto al remanso que espeja de noche
las estrellas, que no junto a las cascadas que dan miedo'" (Obras completes
In the case of Don Manuel and LAzaro, their noble deeds and dedication to self-sacrifice
constitute a lifestyle that is ostensibly not of "ongoing suicide." Lest one wonders why
Unamuno assigns this mind-set to his characters, it may be a result of Don Manuel's guilt
of hypocritical preaching. Even so, the comfort and solace that the priest provides for his
parishioners should more than assuage his guilt. Nonetheless, Unamuno's text suggests
that he may be projecting his feelings via the priest who says,
"Sigamos, pues, Lizaro,
suicidindonos en nuestra obra y en nuestro pueblo, y que suefie 6ste su vida como el lago
suefia el cielo" (Obras completes
Unamuno possibly believes, with some rationale, that all that exists perpetually struggles
against its potential nonexistence. Paradoxically and simultaneously, it is the same
struggle against both nonexistence and existence, even if only on a particular esoteric
level. This explains the above quote in which Unamuno sees life as protracted suicide.
As Unamuno's words imply, such protraction reflects his aim to condition the
reader's consciousness to not only accept paradox, but to also search for it as a lifeline to
an ever-deepening understanding. Unamuno's words suggest his intent to challenge and
blur the commonly received assumptions of the fixed boundaries of the dimensions of
time and space. In this way can suicide be "continuous." Whereas the act of self-
destruction is commonly perceived as swift and hopefully painless, Unamuno's text
implies that the purpose for Don Manuel's
life is to existentially and paradoxically
sacrifice it through its simultaneous creation and destruction. The protractedness of this
process reflects the expansion of the boundaries of time.
The dimension of time is an important element that carries within it paradoxical
complexities that Unamuno uses in San Manuel Bueno, martir. Narrator Angela cites Don
Manuel's comment that reflects his feelings about time and consciousness. This passage
illustrates Unamuno's view of nature as mystical:
"Mira, parece como si se hubiera acabado el tiempo, como si esa zagala hubiese
estado ahf siempre, y como esta, y cantando como esta, y como si hubiera de seguir
estando asf siempre, como estuvo cuando no empez6 mi conciencia, como estard
cuando se me acabe." (Obras completes 2 1145)
Unamuno's words imply that the above bucolic scene eternally takes place independently
depends upon Don Manuel's perception of it. Because no two persons could perceive of it
in exactly the same way, it would not be the same scene for a different person, or even for
the same person at a different moment. Thus the scene and the perceiver are mutually
independent and dependent simultaneously. This constitutes a specific style of
Unamunian paradox that involves the element of time.
Unamuno's words suggest that time and space exist only in the perception of the
individual, and that because all objectivity depends on the individual's subjective
perception, objectivity is only relative, if it could exist at all. In San Manuel Bueno,
mirtir, examples of the foregoing idea appear, especially in cases where Unamuno uses
paradox by way of words that relate to time. He manipulates the reader's perception of
time and space through the suspension of the reader's disbelief, as exemplified in the
words in San Manuel Bueno, martir:
"Y hasta nunca mds ver, pues se acaba este suefio de la vida...
The word "hasta" implies a progression toward a time when something is supposed to
"Nunca mds ver" suggests that it will never happen. Unamuno uses this paradox
"until we never meet again" to insinuate both the existence and nonexistence of a
hereafter in which souls both meet and never meet again. True to his aversion to
conclusion, Unamuno does not say whether or not there is an afterlife. He only presents
another possibility with which the reader may expand and enrich the mind.
Unamuno encourages his audience to resist the comforts of thoughtless obedience
to traditionalism. With his use of paradox, Unamuno spurs his readers to consider the
" (Obras completes 2 1148) and "
. hasta los muertos nos moriremos del todo"
Based on Unamuno's words in the above quotes, life and death are one and the
same. He speaks of dying inexorably and forever. This means that one never completes
the act of dying, thus one never completes the act of living. Unamuno also has his
protagonist saying that he hardly has enough strength except to die: "
siento con fuerzas sino para morir" (1149). These words imply that without enough
strength to die, Don Manuel would have to stay alive. In such a case, total depletion of
strength would be his only key to survival.
Thus Unamuno's protagonist Don Manuel quotes Calder6n in San Manuel Bueno,
ya dijo que 'el delito mayor del hombre es haber nacido.'. Y como dijo
Calder6n, el hacer bien, y el engafiar bien, ni aun en suefios se pierde...
" (Obras completes
2 1147-48). Unamuno's words suggest that his protagonist Don Manuel is trying to
assuage the guilt of his hypocrisy, albeit benevolent. His situation demands deceiving his
followers for what he considers to be their own good. He can blame this destiny on his
birth. Thus he makes himself guilty for being born. This is the sin without which he
would be unable to seek atonement.
For Don Manuel, based on the foregoing rationale, hypocrisy should be moral and
benign if it helps the flock live and die with the least possible amount of discomfort, and
the greatest possible amount of spiritual solace. The priest fulfills this aim, and he
existentially creates a belief for his people. He makes their individual realities far less
novel, the finale of which reflects his use of paradox to the very end. Averse to
conclusion, Unamuno "concludes" with:
Ni sabe el pueblo qu6 cosa es fe, ni acaso le importa much.
intima historic, la mis verdadera .. bien
. La novela es la mgs
que en lo que se cuenta en este relato
no pasa nada; mas espero que sea porque en ello todo se queda, como se quedan los
lagos y las montafias, y las santas almas sencillas asentadas mas alli de la fe y de la
desesperaci6n, que en ellos, en los lagos y las montafias, fuera de la historic, en
divina novela, se cobijaron. (Obras completes 2 1154)
The first sentence of the above quote implies that those of less faith know it by its
absence and care more about it, even though there are many of deep faith who also know
what faith is, and also treasure it. It first appears that Unamuno is indulging a generalized
supposition, because there is no correlation between faith and one's awareness of having
it or one's concern for knowing one has it. At issue is the distinction between blind
unthinking obedience to institutionalized faith, such as that of the flock, and existential
deliberate faith of deeply thinking individuals. Unamuno's words in the above quote also
imply that the parishioners do not know or care about faith because they never had any
doubt with which to compare it. This principle also appears in Unamuno's Paz en la
guerra, in which his words suggest that, in order to experience peace, one must suffer the
war that contains it.
In the case of Unamuno's remark about having faith without knowing or caring
about it, the words also insinuate an enigmatic Unamunian contrivance to spur the reader
to learn by seeking answers while knowing that such answers cannot exist. This
harmonizing of opposites is part of Unamuno's use of paradox as a rhetorical device.
srri .1 I JI 1 -[ .. 1 -- -- .-1 -- ,-
intrahistoria that also appears in his Paz en la guerra. Chapter II of this project addresses
Finally, the last part of the foregoing quote relegates the faithful villagers, the
"blessed simple souls," to a plane beyond faith and despair, and beyond the confines of
history. By Unamuno's words, their timelessness provides them with refuge, in a quasi-
metafictional mode, in the novel that contains them.
The author and reader voluntarily engage an unwritten contract. The author
presents a measure of imaginary existence and unreal "reality" that offers the reader
entertainment, catharsis, enlightenment, or a combination thereof. In so doing, the
author displaces a portion of the nonexistence that precedes the existential creation of
belief. The reader fulfills his or her role by existentially creating a suspension of
disbelief during the reading process. The consequences of these acts include the
blurring, erosion, weakening, destabilizing, and negation of the line that is supposed to
separate existence from nonexistence, belief from nonbelief, and fact from fiction. The
paradox of this situation is that this line of separation and demarcation also serves to
connect and harmonize the opposite entities that the line is supposed to separate.
Unamuno exemplifies this paradox at the close of San Manuel Bueno, mirtir.
In the last quote, Unamuno's words "no pasa nada" imply either that nothing is
happening in the novel, or that the quantity of nothingness is related as a notable event,
not only in the unreality of the novel, but also in the reality of the world that contains
the novel. This is one of the ways in which Unamuno manipulates the line that
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In this way, Unamuno surpasses even the strength of his ambiguous and
inconsistent self-contradicting rhetoric. He thus challenges his audience to more than
fulfill its role in suspension of disbelief. He spurs his reader to pursue paradox as a
vibrant alternative to the paralysis of received and accepted dogmatic conclusiveness
perpetuated by societal traditionalism.
To paraphrase the ending words of San Manuel Bueno, martir, the people took
shelter in a "divine novel," beyond hope and desperation, doing this beyond the confines
of history. Unamuno's words suggest that the flock makes the existential choice to find
refuge, as if they had the option to seek shelter or not. In reality, Unamuno makes them
do it, so they have no choice. In another sense, he cannot make the fictitious people do
anything, since they do not exist in the reality needed for Unamuno to reach and affect
them. Based on what his words suggest, the nonexistent characters are beyond his reach,
enabling them to take refuge beyond "faith and despair." The line that separates fact from
fiction separates author from characters, to whom history, dealing only with that which
existed, is irrelevant. The nonexistence of the flock in the novel's content negates the
entire novel, in a sense. The paradox is that the fiction is in a state of both existence and
The form of the fiction and the book that contains it are real, but the content of the
fiction is not. The question is whether the form of a fiction can exist without the unreality
of its content. If it could, the form would be an empty shell without a novel. Only the
unreal substance of the fiction's content can flesh out and validate the form, whereas the
protagonist Don Manuel's parishioners take refuge in a "divine novel" outside of history.
This implies that the chronology that history would order is absent, disallowing the
people to exist. Because the people exist "outside of history," and the "divinity" of the
novel places it in a realm not of this world, the people are able to take refuge in the novel
because both they and divinity are on the same plane of fiction.
Since the novel is "divine," it has no existence in the world of the author or the
reader. The words closing the novel imply that the "divinity" of the novel lies in the same
dimension as the nonexistence of the parishioners who thereby can gain access to the
The above leads to the paradoxical question of the exact space and moment in
which the real world of the fact of the author connects with the unreal world of the fiction
of the novel. It is the gap between the form and the content of the fiction that eludes
connection. Fiction exists, but that which the realm of fiction contains is nonexistent.
Likewise, nonexistence exists, but that which nonexistence contains cannot exist. Because
the existence of nonexistence negates all that exists, it is the existence/nonexistence of this
paradox that enables Unamuno's use of paradox in the reality of the form of his fiction's
unreal content. That which is fictional is outside of reality, but the fact of being fictional
is within it.
As the foregoing shows, the inadequacy of language precludes distinguishing fact
from fiction. The individual can know the difference between reality and fantasy, but one
cannot prove or communicate the line of demarcation with any oral or written linguistic
characters, places, and events depicted within the content of the fiction are fictitious, the
fact that there are entities called fictional ideas, characters, places, and events in existence
is a real fact. The words that signify these fictitious entities are signifiers that exist in
If the line of demarcation between fact and fiction cannot be proven with language,
but can be instinctively sensed by the perceiving subject, one must question whether this
sensing and understanding underscores the limitations of words to the point of making
language not only deceptive beyond authenticity, but also useless beyond imagination. It is
by dint of this hypothesis that one may justify Unamuno's use of paradox in his novel.
It is the reader's interpretation of a text that establishes whether he or she considers
the text to be fact or fiction. This interpretation of what the reader perceives at a given
time is what separates fiction from nonfictional works. In Unamuno's novel San Manuel
Bueno, mirtir, there is no doubt that this is a work of fiction.
What is important to the
reader is not the fact of the work being fiction, but rather the fact that the work causes an
impact upon the reader. The reader does not have uppermost in the consciousness the
fictitiousness of the novel. The ironic twists in the story appeal to the reader's sense of
humor, and he or she finds a measure of aesthetic fulfillment in Unamuno's use of
paradox in this novel. Furthermore, the line that separates reality from fantasy, and fact
from fiction, may become blurred in the mind of the reader by the paradoxes that
Unamuno playfully applies in his San Manuel Bueno, martir.
This study explores four works of Unamuno, each of which reflects his use of
paradox in its own particular way. All of the works express the author's tone of the
specific period of his life during which he produced the work. The tone reveals, in part,
Unamuno's moods and attitudes of the time, to the extent of their being agonic or
contemplative. Most salient is the fact that one conspicuous characteristic provides a
thread common to all of these works: Unamuno's use of paradox.
Without mentioning any specific paradoxical philosophy that may have influenced
Unamuno during his writing, Blanco Aguinaga observes some of the former's evolving
paradoxical feelings about reason and faith:
De su descubrimiento personal, y quiza para consolarse, deduce Unamuno que todos
los hombres, y muy especialmente los metaffsicos y los poetas, sufren de su mismo
mal: miedo a la muerte, necesidad de un Dios creador de la inmortalidad personal e
imposibilidad racional de career en 61. De esta toma de conciencia y de su
universalizaci6n nace toda su obra. (20)
The foregoing quote applies especially to Unamuno's thought as reflected in his essay
treated in this thesis: Del sentimiento tragico de la vida (1913). As the above quote
indicates, Unamuno's difficulty to believe in a deity grows commensurately with his need
to believe. This is only one source of his paradoxical thinking, and it shows in how he
applies it in his works. Blanco Aguinaga further comments on Unamuno's involvement
Blanco Aguinaga also notes Hegel's influence upon Unamuno, and the fact that the
latter's concept of intrahistoria derives from the former: "
Unamuno llamarfa la 'intrahistoria'
(57). This critic also says,
. .. el concept de la que
: historic natural hegeliana, es decir, no historic .
'la Historia brota de la no Historia'... lo contrario de
es la Naturaleza .
" (183). These remarks seem to render impossible the
existence of history as a "natural" entity. Inadequacies of language being what they are,
this critic's comments reflect Unamuno's gravitation to any paradoxical idea, such as that
which questions the nature of the "unnatural." Unamuno expands upon this concept
throughout his Paz en la guerra.
Without mentioning either Hegel, paradox, or Paz en la guerra, Navajas offers a
particular view on Unamuno's relationship to history: "La subjetividad de la historic
individual se armoniza con la objetividad de la historic colectiva" (181). Regarding
another of the four works by Unamuno that this thesis explores, the above critic comments
on the protagonist of Niebla. This novel, or nivola, as Unamuno calls it, is paradoxical by
virtue of its being a metafiction. The protagonist exercises his "free will" through suicide,
so as to dominate his predetermined fate. He does this while knowing that he is only an
imaginary character whom the author Unamuno is writing. Navajas comments on the
suicide of the protagonist of Unamuno's Niebla: "El acto de Augusto significa un modo
de autoafirmaci6n frente a las fuerzas externas que le dominant" (58). This metafictional
novel by Unamuno portrays the powerful paradox that is the interaction that harmonizes
the opposites of free will and predestiny. This paradox prominently defines much of