Thursday 2 October 2008

El Sentimiento Tragico de la Vida

In the midst of all this work, when I can spare five minutes I try to check out a few blogs that I know will refresh and divert my mind, and yes, something catches my eye. Wood s Lot had links this week to Miguel de Unamuno! Oh my god. The horror and hatred of my first year as a university student. Who ever put this man on the curriculum for 18-year-old foreign students of Spanish literature has a lot to answer for. His pessimistic, difficult, anguished, existentialist philosophy, novels and poetry… how I hated them. Of course he was interesting and brilliant. Of course his deep, post-end-of-Spanish-colonialism questioning got to me. I was so lost in life and had so little idea of what I was doing, in this new intellectual environment so out of my social class and so far from all my previous experience - it wasn’t what I needed! And to cap it all, once he’d got me all upset and depressed... oh no, this stuff was all about the male psyche, he said. Women were warm, simple, creatures, earth-mothers, not subject to any of this anguish. How I hated him.

Well, I find I like his poem, and I suspect I’d have quite a lot of time for him these days (though not for his views on women). The Tragic Sense of Life – which 18-year-old wants or needs to hear about that? Now, of course, it’s always with me. His face in the photo, the quizzical expression, the very Spanish beard, makes me smile, and yes his desk looks just like mine! How things do come full circle.


Dale said...

Oh God, yes, Unamuno. What a horrible person.

Great writer, sometimes. Interesting thinker, occasionally. But -- gah. Such an uptight loveless little wretch.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jean, thanks for this. I hated him too, though we didn't take him on until my final year, not first -- not that this made too much difference.

I really, really wanted to like his stuff. I found it unreadable. I admired my Generación del 98 teacher, Dr. Clark, and wanted to do well for him. (I put all my energy into Galdós, which wasn't really the same at all, but mitigated a bit.)

And yet. I'm not sure you can really understand modernity -- if it ever came to pass -- in Spain without Unamuno.

Linda S. Socha said...

Thank you for this post. It has made my day...and perhaps my week(tomorrow still awaits). I absolutely love the photo...I want to I smile at it..Are you for real??


Jean said...

So nice when this kind of thing resonates with others!!!

Pica, I'm afraid I didn't like Galdos much either. I think the Spanish vocabulary was too hard for me, not having grown up in Spain like you.

Dale, have you read everyone, in every language? :-) (I know Pica majored in Spanish and French, like me)

Linda, you're too kind! Yup, he was definitely for real.

Dave King said...

I see why you like the poem; does the poem justify the man?

Anonymous said...

If they had served up this photo
with that introductory Ethics course
back in '64, it would have explained
a lot, alleviated my own sentimiento
tragico immensely

A picture worth many thousands of
anxiety-producing words


Peter Clothier said...

Nice to hear some honesty about one of those literary "giants" we're all supposed to admire as students. I have my own list of private hates! And I found at quite an early age, despite an advanced degree in the subject, that I couldn't stand "literature." Books, okay. Poems, yes, sometimes. "Literature," never!