Analyzing ‘san Manuel Bueno, Martyr’: Truth In Times Of Great Uncertainty And Collective Disillusionment

San Manuel Bueno’s martir was published in the late 1930s after Primo de Rios fell to military dictatorship. King Alfonso XIII remained the heir to the throne. He also shared Rivera’s dislike. The republicans, which were mainly anti-clerical, gained rapid support ahead of the municipal election. Unamuno’s ‘nivola’ explores the concept of Truth. This will be understood to refer to anything that is consistent with reality or fact, and does not necessarily have a transcendental meaning. Unamuno uses both content and form to show the elusive nature and importance of Truth. This is especially relevant in the historical context.

The novel clearly shows the importance of Truth in its content, particularly when it is linked to the eternal search of religious truths and the question regarding faith. Don Manuel decides to live a life based on deliberate falsehood, believing that there are certain truths too terrible for him to tell. Manuel believes that knowing the sad Truth about life is too burdensome for common people. Manuel believes life can be lived in blissful ignorance about humankind’s mortal, temporary nature by believing in a God or an Afterlife or in the knowledge that we will ultimately die. This raises questions about the value of religion in today’s world. San Manuel Bueno Martir is actually a novel that strongly opposes progressivism. Lzaro’s spiritual demise is directly linked to his exposure to progressivism within the New World. Manuel repeats Karl Marx’s words, “Opio… Opio… Opio,” [2]; the use of religion as opium and the emphatic repetitions of the word in dialogue give the impression of being lulled to sleep-like states. Unamuno seems intent on promoting the benefits of religion. He presents Manuel as the hero and encourages blind faith and tradition to lead a happy life. Unamuno’s quest for truth in life, as well as the meaning of it, is inextricable. He is simply trying to promote happiness through blind faith and tradition. This is how the common man can live a happy life without fear and contentment. Unamuno has been known to suffer from thanatophobia. It was partly a result of his religious crisis that occurred in 1897. Unamuno said that his religion was to seek the truth in all things and that he would never find them. In his diary, he wrote that he was faced with two options: to become Catholic or to suffer from depression[4]. San Manuel Bueno martir suggests that religion’s function can be traced back to the beginning of history. Manuel’s patron is Christ himself, he is called’su-santo patron’ in Hebrew. The chapter 13 spiritual resurrection of Lazaro can also be compared to St. John 11’s Lazarus story. The novel is actually a reference to Manuel as Jesus Christ. He is able heal the sick and has carpentry skills. His ‘voz divina,’ which moves the congregation in a transcendent manner, makes the village shake. Dios mo! Por qu me has abandonado[6]. Manuel also reported to Lazaro that Manuel was not the only one who believed in an afterlife. Unamuno thereby instills in the reader the idea that not all of the top Church figures have believed in the immortality soul.

The form of Truth in San Manuel Bueno is a crucial aspect of the martir concept. The story itself is a second-hand account about Don Manuel’s life. This basic displacement is made more complicated by Manuel’s inability to confide in Angela. Angela receives crucial information from Lazaro about Manuel’s disbelief. The story is often told from a third-person perspective and becomes distorted two-fold. Angela’s narration is inconsistent and can shake our beliefs about reality and truth. Angela is an elderly woman with fading memory. Angela actually states that she isn’t sure if she woke up in the episode. Unamuno also tries to confuse readers in the last section of the novel, adding to the story’s complexity. He implies that Angela is a wonderful character and suggests that fiction and reality are fundamentally one and the same. The reader is left wondering if Don Manuel is a significant Truth that is, in this sense, more real than Unamuno. We are also left with an unreliable narrative, a subjective account of events and feelings that leaves us feeling disoriented, as if we can’t reach a true core of certainty. This is because post-realist writers did not believe in a stable, objective reality. Instead, they depicted subjective realities that deal with individual consciousness and perception. Unamuno’s questioning of the narration and the use of metafiction force the reader to reflect on the relationship between fictions reality in times of social and political turmoil.

Unamuno’s works are often criticized by critics. They claim that San Manuel Bueno Martir is a true representation of his beliefs on the truth of life, religion, and life. But he made a famous statement that every person should face the awful reality of their mortal existence, even if this means giving up our happiness[10]. Don Manuel wanted to make people happy, Unamuno was determined to get them out of complacency. He also wanted them to confront the horrific nature of human life. The reader is given an ‘artistic file’ in the shape of San Manuel Bueno Martir. Unamuno invites them to seek out the truth but knows that they will never find it. This is due to the fact that there is very little information about Don Manuel available to us. It also emphasizes the limitations of historical and fictional narratives. They cannot be taken to be records of facts as they are always written in a certain way. Unamuno described John’s Gospels, Mark, Luke, Luke, Luke and Matthew as novels. Angela’s memoirs are personal interpretations of real life. They will always have only partial links to reality. The truth is never found because everyone has their own version of reality. This could also be applied in the volatile political environment of 1930 when both monarchist and republican parties used a lot of rhetoric as the municipal elections approached. Unamuno’s novella highlights that men cannot discover the truth of which path is best for them. It is difficult to see the truth behind the individual’s reality and the yo to ntimo is what holds the key.

Unamuno uses symbols throughout his novel to meditate on the idea truth. The most obvious symbol is the lake, but it has many meanings depending on where they are used. The lake represents death and oblivion for Manuel and Lazaro. Manuel, especially, associates with the lake when he feels suicidal. Angela finds the lake a warm reminder to her home. The drowned village reassures Angela of her immortality promise. Manuel, on other hand, believes that life is meaningless and is short. In the novel, the lake serves as an ambiguous and cruel symbol. It contrasts the truth-seeking and the believers in the immortality in the soul. Contrast is actually the key to all other symbols. Manuel is moved by falling snowflakes. However, it seems that it’s the idea of something appearing and disappearing so quickly that motivates him. Similarly, he makes a comment to Lazaro contrasting what is stable and what is fleeting, ‘Has visto, Lazaro, misterio mayor que el de la nieve cayendo en el lago y muriendo en l mientras cubre con su toca a la montaa[13]. Manuel sees symbolic meaning in the things that represent his struggle for life between wanting to live and longing to die. The novel uses symbols from different stances to illustrate how it is impossible to find one truth about meaning. They are used in certain contexts by specific characters. These symbols are just another way Unamuno keeps San Manuel’s truth from us.

San Manuel Bueno’s martir is an exploration of truth in all its various facets. It explores the Truth of Mortality. The knowledge is too overwhelming for most people to handle. The novel suggests that religion, especially Catholicism, can be used to help men live contented lives. Unamuno also explores the unknowable nature truth in literature. Anything written or spoken is always a matter to be perceived and thus the reader will never know the truth. Unamuno’s novel came at a crucial time in Spain’s political turmoil. It questioned people’s access and understanding of the truth behind public discourse.

[1] M. De Unamuno, San Manuel Bueno, martir. Focus Publishing (2004), p25 [2] Ibid. p32 [3] M. De Unamuno, Mi Religian y Otros Ensayos Breves. Espasa Calpe (1986) [4] Diario antimo (Madrid: Alianza, 1970) [5] M. De Unamuno, San Manuel Bueno, martir. p6 (06) ibid.p6 [7] [8] [9] ibid.p46 [8] p44 [9] ibid. p45 [10] M. De Unamuno, Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho, OC, IV, pp.227-8 [11] M. De Unamuno, San Manuel Bueno, martir. p2 [12] Ibid p8 [13] Ibid p30



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Original: Maps

Paraphrased: Charts

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