Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo was one of the first Spanish writers of the 20th century, who concentrated on the perspective of a man with his passion, desires, and hope and the world itself. This writer tried to analyze the idea of faith in the society. One of his last works was San Manuel Bueno, Mártir, a novel that represented Unamuno’s thoughts and beliefs. This story is about a parish priest, Don Manuel Bueno, who suddenly loses his faith because of immoral modern world, and the Carballinos, a Spanish family. Angela and Lázaro Carballino, and their mother are attracted by Manuel’s ideas about faith, Christianity, and the life after death. San Manuel Bueno, Mártir may be considered as a kind of tool used by Unamuno to reproduce his own philosophical ideas.
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The narrator of this story is Angela Carballino. She gets her education outside the village, where her mother lives. The mother is a catholic woman, who tries to teach her daughter about the faith and love to people. In this small village with its lake and magnificent mountains, there is one priest, Don Manuel, who aims at helping people and making them happier and free. By some reasons, Angela is attracted by the village, the priest, and his ideas.
One day, her brother, Lázaro, returns to the village. Lázaro is characterized by strong unbelieving in God, faith, and any religion in general. The only purpose of his arrival to the village is to take his mother and sister to the larger, progressive city. However, all his dreams are broke down after his mother’s death. There is one promise that she asks her son to do – to pray for her. Lázaro cannot but keep his promise, that makes him contact with Don Manuel. In a short period of time, Lázaro realizes that Don Manuel does not resemble any other priest he have met before. The idea that there is no life after death is not inherent to priests, this is what makes Don Manuel interesting to Lázaro.
The main idea that Don Manuel wants to explain to Lázaro is the following: there is no life after death. However, people should not know this terrible truth, and priest’s purpose is to hide this terrible truth in order to make all people happier during their lives. Such idea attracts Lázaro a lot. He makes a decision to covert to Christianity and visit all Don Manuel’s masses in order to become his best disciple. Angela cannot comprehend how people who do not believe in the life after death may teach and help other people, and provide them with the necessary support. One of the most interesting aspects of this story is that Don Manuel does believe in God. He tells that when a person dies, he sees the God’s face, however, this person will not be admitted to the heaven, as it is promised.
Another not less interesting thing about this novel is that Unamuno decides to take the role of God in this story. He is the creator of all characters, he rules all of them and decides when and how each person should die. One of the characters, Augusto Perez, decides to commit suicide and rebel against the creator who rules everybody’s destiny. Before his death, he sees the creator, the author of this story, and gets to know that he is just a fiction character. Now, it is his time to disappear in the mist and be forgotten by the others, and nothing can be changed. Augusto’s attempt to rebel against the writer is his gross mistake, and he needs to be punished.
The story ends tragically. Don Manuel has some problems with his health, which suddenly lead him to death. Lázaro, his devoted student, dies soon after him. The idea that Don Manuel scarifies his own life for other people’s happiness makes Lázaro respect and follow each step taken by his teacher. Angela is the only character, who is left. Now, her faith and all moral principles, she has known before, was broken. She cannot understand how such a blind faith may lead to such a tragic end. She is at loss and no one can help to find the way.
This Spanish philosopher and great writer, Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, influenced considerably the development of the literature of the 20th century. His bright ideas about non-existence of the life after death and that our lives are controlled by someone else were unique for literature of those times. Not every person wants to comprehend that his/her destiny is in the hands of someone.
Everyone wants to control his/her own life independently. After I read this book, I cannot but think whether all my actions have been already written by someone, and I can do nothing to change my life. Of course, such ideas are just my impressions from the book. It is really great that there are such masterpieces, like San Manuel Bueno, Mártir, that make the reader think about his/her own destiny and the role in this world.