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Abel Sanchez and Other Stories by Miguel de…

Abel Sanchez and Other Stories (1917)

by Miguel de Unamuno

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (4)  Spanish (3)  All languages (7)
Showing 4 of 4
I first read this in 1990, while taking a college course in existentialist literature. Pulling Abel Sanchez off my shelf this afternoon, I notice how much of the highlights I made decades ago are as philosophically relevant as ever...of course, it is considered a classic in many circles so that makes sense.

But, oh, the beauty of the prose (this translation is by Anthony Kerrigan):

"His usual thesis was that nothing was known for certain in medicine, that everything was hypothetical and a constant raveling and unraveling, that distrust was the most justified emotion."

I was especially "angsty" during this period of my life, so I'm not surprised a lot of the underlined passages speak to identity, real vs. unreal and moral imperatives. What does surprise me now is how much of it I would still highlight today. Abel Sanchez is one of those rare books that is both painful and comforting to read, timeless and beautiful as well... ( )
  booksandcats4ever | Jul 30, 2018 |
I could not find anything really captivating or enlightening about this text, and I do not suppose that the topic was more engaging a hundred years ago. To make the reader work hard to get at the core of the presented problem, a book has to offer more than a vapid case study.

Also, what I perceived as a mixture of fairy tale / fable style with the biblical narrative got on my nerves quite quickly.

I will allow though that I may have missed much of what made this book lacking the necessary Sprachgefühl and context. So, go on, click on it.

Some context going in:
"It could be said, then, that when composing Abel Sánchez Miguel de Unamuno is already in possession of a (extremely) personal novelistic style, crystallized in what he called “nivolas:” novels which escape 19th-century realism by suppressing almost completely any reference to specific spaces and times; by creating deliberately flat characters defined by a chosen set of qualities and who maintain them throughout the whole novel; and by giving more importance to the development of an idea, than to the aesthetic form or narrative structure through which that idea is developed." (A Spanish incarnation of ‘Cain’: Miguel de Unamuno’s Abel Sánchez, Pérez Isasi, Santiago (2011), in "Villains and Villainy", I.D.Press (eBook).

So, yes, flat characters as personification of ideas, ideas over narrative structure and aesthetic form: at this stage we are incompatible. I don't like ideas thus transmitted. ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
This is the first book I've read of Unamuno's and it reminded me strongly of his German contemporary Herman Hesse (particularly of two of the stories from [b:Klingsors letzter Sommer|336304|Klingsors letzter Sommer|Hermann Hesse|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1173848863s/336304.jpg|2115268], and to a lesser extent [b:Steppenwolf|16631|Steppenwolf|Hermann Hesse|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347752205s/16631.jpg|57612] and [b:Narcissus and Goldmund|5954|Narcissus and Goldmund|Hermann Hesse|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1165553931s/5954.jpg|955995]). There were also veins that Camus would later mine, especially in [b:The Fall|11991|The Fall|Albert Camus|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347280041s/11991.jpg|3324245]. Those are the frames of reference I brought to these three unique stories that made them seem pleasantly familiar.

Unamuno's subject matter is decidedly psychological, the action of these stories taking place primarily in the heads of their chief characters. Yet he is equally preoccupied with philosophy, theology and morality. I read the stories chronologically ("Madness of Doctor Montarco" followed by "Abel Sanchez" and then "San Manuel Bueno") to be able to better appreciate Unamuno's development. And I always read the introduction last, a habit I recommend to others as well since you can only appreciate a commentary on something after you've read that something. . . one of my perpetual gripes with the entire publishing tradition : )

All of the stories deal with exceptional individuals who struggle to reconcile their compulsions to self-expression with the perceptions of society ("Abel" takes a somewhat different path). Dr. Montarco is a superb physician who needs to release his maniacal urges through subversive literature, facing distastrous consequences when stymied. Joaquín Monegro is a superb physician who is tormented by the easy fortune of his lifelong friend Abel Sanchez. Don Manuel is a superb priest who sacrifices himself in order to satisfy the needs of his parishioners. You get the feeling that all of these protagonists are autobiographical, and they each deal with different sins, perhaps progressing as Unamuno did over his life: the sin of pride early on, followed by envy, and finally loss of faith.

The richness of these stories revolves around these three moral dilemmas, and there is much to consider and decide with respect to each one. The apparent message of the last story is particularly depressing, that religion should be the opium of the masses, that this is a righteous path. I disagree. For happiness, yes, this would be correct, because ignorance is bliss. But I don't believe that happiness is the most important thing in life.

The stories are very thought-provoking and suffer in enjoyability only because there is so little action. The goings-on are all related as conversations or inner monologues. But still, the man has impressed me and I look forward to reading [b:Niebla|63137|Niebla |Miguel de Unamuno|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1222381863s/63137.jpg|184454] next.

Still, the most impressive aspect of Unamuno remains the quote that first brought his name to my attention, when in 1936 he replied to a fascist speech by General Millán-Astray at the university where he would later have to resign. This is what he said:You are waiting for my words. You know me well, and know I cannot remain silent for long. Sometimes, to remain silent is to lie, since silence can be interpreted as assent. . . But now I have heard this insensible and necrophilous oath, "¡Viva la Muerte!", and I, having spent my life writing paradoxes that have provoked the ire of those who do not understand what I have written, and being an expert in this matter, find this ridiculous paradox repellent. General Millán-Astray is a cripple. There is no need for us to say this with whispered tones. He is a war cripple. So was Cervantes. But unfortunately, Spain today has too many cripples. And, if God does not help us, soon it will have very many more. It torments me to think that General Millán-Astray could dictate the norms of the psychology of the masses. A cripple, who lacks the spiritual greatness of Cervantes, hopes to find relief by adding to the number of cripples around him.

[Millán-Astray responded, "¡Muera la inteligencia! ¡Viva la Muerte!" ("Death to intelligence! Long live death!"), provoking applause from the Falangists.]

[Unamuno continued] This is the temple of intelligence, and I am its high priest. You are profaning its sacred domain. You will win, because you have enough brute force. But you will not convince. In order to convince it is necessary to persuade, and to persuade you will need something that you lack: reason and right in the struggle. I see it is useless to ask you to think of Spain. I have spoken.
He was escorted to safety by Franco's wife, and then removed from his post at the University of Salamanca. He died 10 weeks later.

Thus anything I read by Unamuno will be colored by my knowledge that the man was a bonafide hero. ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
I was introduced to Unamuno in a Spanish literature course while studying in Madrid. It was a revelation. Unamuno's stories have stuck with me more than an almost any other author I can name. When recommending books to friends I would recommend Unamuno in the same breath as Borges.

This book is an excellent collection of Unamuno's stories. I especially enjoyed Saint Emmanuel the Good Martyr that is contained in this book. Unamuno deserves to be more widely known and read outside of the genre of Spanish literature.

Unfortunately, I cannot knowledgeably comment on the quality of the translation as my Spanish is not sufficient to read this book in the original language. ( )
  Oberon | Mar 8, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miguel de Unamunoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kerrigan, AnthonyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valdes, Mario J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 987118722X, Paperback)

El argumento central de Abel Sanchez es el tema de la envidia, tema sobre el que ya Unamuno, en el esplendor de su gloria literaria, habia meditado abundamentemente [...] En ese tema ve Unamuno el nervio de la conflictividad historica y social que ha vivido nuestro pais de forma continua y apasionada, aunque no deje de reflejar el fondo universal de la humana convivencia. [...] Esta envidia es expresion del conflicto exterior e interior que don Miguel vivio intensamente a lo largo de su existencia, conflicto que alcanza su maxima expresion simbolica y paradigmatica en la guerra civil.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:30 -0400)

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