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Book Title: هابیل و چند داستان دیگر|
The author of the book: Miguel de Unamuno
Edition: انتشارات ناهید
Date of issue: 2003
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Format files: PDF
The size of the: 481 KB
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Reader ratings: 7.9
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Stark, dialogue-based, rarely descriptive and lacking plot, the three pieces in this collection (a novel, a novella, a short story) are nonetheless compelling in their stark, heartfelt urgency. A rector at the University of Salamanca in Spain at the turn of the 20th century, many times relieved of his post and given it back again, also deported to the Canary Islands for ‘attacks on the Monarchy’, Unamuno was a man made well aware of the dangers of truth-telling.
What has happened? Simply that five people have already approached me to ask what I meant by writing the piece of fiction I have just published, what I intended to say, and what bearing did it have. Idiots, idiots, and thrice idiots! They’re worse than children who break dolls to find out what’s inside... They believe no-one could write except to prove something, or defend or attack some proposition, or from an ulterior motive...
(‘The Madness of Doctor Montarco’.)
Like the good doctor, I also have an aversion to such analysis. I don’t much care what the ‘themes’ of a piece of fiction are. Montarco’s psychiatrist puts it so:
I have been reading his work since he has been here and I realise that one of their mistakes was to take him for a man of ideas, a writer of ideas, when fundamentally he is no such thing. His ideas were a point of departure, mere raw material, and had as much importance in his writing as earth used by Velasquez in making the pigments had to do with his painting, or as the type of stone Michelangelo used had to do with his Moses... At best, ideas are no more than raw material, as I’ve already said, for works of art, or for philosophy, or for polemics.
So, the themes – the types of stone – in this case are: a retelling of Cain and Abel with the focus on Cain (why it’s called ‘Abel Sanchez’ I don’t know); a portrait of a modern so-called saint and his struggle with his unbelief in a small village; a portrait of a lucid writer/doctor unable to reconcile the two strands of his public persona and committed to an asylum. But what makes the stories is their usage of these themes as springboards to whatever it is that occurs to Unamo as he muses on these beginnings. In tone they remind of mid-career Hesse – Demian especially – though starker and rarely lyrical. And it’s not hard to see how people might have reacted to them as Doctor Montarco’s readers reacted to his writings, because the focus on debating voices gives them a tone something like a work of philosophy, in which the thrust of the argument is all important. To me, again, this is immaterial. To me, it was the magical suggestion of something – lives, a world – beyond the dialogue that kept me reading. And the determination to be true to this world, to the conception. And the fact that the argument had two sides, and evolved.
Despite an occasional sense of the monochrome or (in terms of the descriptive fleshing-out of a world) the one-dimensional, these are good works, intent on a truth beyond politics or sociology. As translator Anthony Kerrigan says: ‘As regards a terrible and troubled honesty, their like is seldom seen.’
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Read information about the authorMiguel de Unamuno was born in the medieval centre of Bilbao, Basque Country, the son of Félix de Unamuno and Salomé Jugo. As a young man, he was interested in the Basque language, and competed for a teaching position in the Instituto de Bilbao, against Sabino Arana. The contest was finally won by the Basque scholar Resurrección María de Azcue.
Unamuno worked in all major genres: the essay, the novel, poetry and theatre, and, as a modernist, contributed greatly to dissolving the boundaries between genres. There is some debate as to whether Unamuno was in fact a member of the Generation of '98 (an ex post facto literary group of Spanish intellectuals and philosophers that was the creation of José Martínez Ruiz — a group that includes Antonio Machado, Azorín, Pío Baroja, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Ramiro de Maeztu and Ángel Ganivet, among others).
In addition to his writing, Unamuno played an important role in the intellectual life of Spain. He served as rector of the University of Salamanca for two periods: from 1900 to 1924 and 1930 to 1936, during a time of great social and political upheaval. Unamuno was removed from his post by the government in 1924, to the protest of other Spanish intellectuals. He lived in exile until 1930, first banned to Fuerteventura (Canary Islands), from where he escaped to France. Unamuno returned after the fall of General Primo de Rivera's dictatorship and took up his rectorship again. It is said in Salamanca that the day he returned to the University, Unamuno began his lecture by saying "As we were saying yesterday, ...", as Fray Luis de León had done in the same place four centuries before, as though he had not been absent at all. After the fall of Rivera's dictatorship, Spain embarked on its second Republic, a short-lived attempt by the people of Spain to take democratic control of their own country. He was a candidate for the small intellectual party Al Servicio de la República.
The burgeoning Republic was eventually squashed when a military coup headed by General Francisco Franco caused the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Having begun his literary career as an internationalist, Unamuno gradually became a convinced Spanish nationalist, feeling that Spain's essential qualities would be destroyed if influenced too much by outside forces. Thus for a brief period he actually welcomed Franco's revolt as necessary to rescue Spain from radical influence. However, the harsh tactics employed by the Francoists in the struggle against their republican opponents caused him to oppose both the Republic and Franco.
As a result of his opposition to Franco, Unamuno was effectively removed for a second time from his University post. Also, in 1936 Unamuno had a brief public quarrel with the Nationalist general Millán Astray at the University in which he denounced both Astray and elements of the Francoist movement. He called the battle cry of the rightist Falange movement—"Long live death!"—repellent and suggested Astray wanted to see Spain crippled. One historian notes that his address was a "remarkable act of moral courage" and that he risked being lynched on the spot. Shortly afterwards, he was placed under house arrest, where he remained, broken-hearted, until his death ten weeks later.
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