The empty hours

Unveil the tragic events witnessed by Unamuno following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War

La Casa de las Conchas, Salamanca (about 1937) by Georg ReisnerThe J. Paul Getty Museum

On July 19, 1936, a state of war was declared in Salamanca. The military took over the city council, appointed a new mayor, and posted army units throughout the city. What should have been a peaceful Sunday morning became the prolog to a collective tragedy.

Unamuno thought that the coup, promoted by Republican soldiers, would save the Republic he had fought so hard for. He became aware of his mistake after a few days of observing the terrible things that were happening as part of a bloody civil war. It was then that the writer took a stand against fascism, delivering a speech at the University of Salamanca, something that would have serious consequences for both his career and his life.

Miguel de Unamuno with Casto Prieto Carrasco (July 1934)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

The start of an uncivil war

Unamuno was a good friend of the Republican mayor of Salamanca, Casto Prieto Carrasco. Carrasco was very soon dismissed, imprisoned by Francoist troops, and shot a few days later. The terrible news was a blow to the writer, who described the events as a savage uncivil war.

"When this savage uncivil war is over, the regime of collective general stupidization and of the most frenetic terror will be brought here"

Letter from Unamuno to Lorenzo Giusso, November 16, 1936

Manuscript of Miguel de Unamuno (1936) by Miguel de UnamunoUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Life's resentment

Around this time, the author started work on a manuscript entitled Life's Tragic Resentment (El Resentimiento Trágico de la Vida). This title made his mood clear. His eagerness to recycle used paper led him to use an envelope sent by the city council as a front cover.

Unamuno versus Unamuno (2017) by Antonio Varas de la RosaUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Hun or the other

The Republican government dismissed Unamuno as chancellor of the University of Salamanca, but just a few days later the National Defense Junta (Junta de Defensa Nacional) reinstated him to the post. Unamuno, who hated feeling manipulated professionally, referred to them as Hun or the other.

"I'm neither a fascist nor a Bolshevik. I am solitary"

Interview with Unamuno by Nikos Kazantzakis, October 1936

Miguel de Unamuno in "La Flecha" (July 1934)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

The sweeping hurricane

He soon learned of the arrest and execution by Francoist troops of his friends, such as the pastor Atilano Coco Martin and Salvador Vila Hernández, the young chancellor of the University of Granada. At this point, Unamuno found himself struggling to bear a mixture of inconsolable sadness and contained rage.

"Thinking the same thoughts as for the last 40 years, but under the weight of this sweeping hurricane"

Personal notebook, October 1936

Miguel de Unamuno´s notes (October 12, 1936) by Miguel de UnamunoUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

To win is not to win over

His role as chancellor meant that he was invited as a guest to a celebration of the National Day of Spain. On October 12, he attended this event in the auditorium of the University of Salamanca. There, after taking some quick notes, he took the floor and proclaimed "to win is not to win over!" to everyone present.

Unamuno's notes, made during the ceremony in the auditorium on the morning of October 12, were written on the back of a letter sent by Enriqueta Carbonell, Coco's wife. In it, she asked the writer to help get some news of her husband, who had been imprisoned by the nationalists. Unamuno kept it in his jacket pocket, using it to help him gather enough courage when standing up to barbarism.

Letter from Enriqueta Carbonell to Miguel de Unamuno, Enriqueta Carbonell, October 1936, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Portrait of Don Miguel de Unamuno (1981) by Josefina Pérez de la TorreUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Deep loneliness

After risking his life against General Millán-Astray and a large number of exalted members of the Falange, the aged chancellor was suddenly dismissed. Sentenced to house arrest, he was completely cut off from his usual habits and daily life.

Professor Serrano's notes, Ignacio Serrano, October 12, 1936, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Notes taken by Ignacio Serrano, a professor at the University of Salamanca, during the ceremony held in the auditorium of the University of Salamanca on October 12, 1936, which report the events that took place following the confrontation between Unamuno and Millán-Astray

"You would have heard those demented Falangists howl, spurred on by the grotesque and crazy histrionics of Millán-Astray! Resolution: I was dismissed from the chancellorship and held hostage"

Letter from Unamuno to Quintín de Torre, December 1, 1936

Portrait of Concha in adulthoodUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Memorabilia

Worried about two of his children and his son-in-law, who were in Madrid and whom he hadn't seen again, only the memory of his beloved Concha made it possible to alleviate such misfortune. His wedding ring was a precious talisman for him, keeping them united through eternity.

Portrait of Unamuno with his eldest grandson Miguel Quiroga in Salamanca, May 1936, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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"Old and painful memories came back to me of a solitary man faced with everything that was happening around him. The struggle of a man who was true to himself in the middle of a hostile environment in the very city he loved so much"

Miguel Quiroga de Unamuno

[An Oak Tree in Winter] (probably 1842–1843) by William Henry Fox TalbotThe J. Paul Getty Museum

To die dreaming

On a cold winter day, the last day of the year of 1936, during a visit to his house by the Falangist Bartolomé Aragón, Unamuno felt unwell and appeared to fall asleep on his couch. However, the smell of one of his slippers burning in the heater under the table alerted everyone to his sudden death.

Miguel de Unamuno's funeral (January 1, 1937)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

The careerists

His funeral was held on January 1, 1937, and was attended by his family, numerous figures from the university, and journalists and writers who were members of the Falange. It seems that some wished to clear their conscience by going public with their friendship now the writer had died.

"Poor Spain! Do not say "Arriba España" again, as this has already become the watchword of careerists"

Letter from Unamuno to Quintín de Torre, December 1, 1936

Christ of Velázquez (1915) by Gregorio PrietoUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

In the arms of the Eternal Father

Unamuno was buried next to his daughter Salomé and his beloved Concha in the Salamancan cemetery. Unamuno's family chose the image of Christ Crucified by Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez for the memorial of his burial, an image for which he felt great passion. The writer died but his indispensable work remains alive.

"Eternal Father, tuck me into your chest, that mysterious home,
I will sleep there, because I come undone from the hard struggle"

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