This review is a contribution to the Spanish Word-A-Day written by Christopher Champion from Oxford.

Niebla deals with many of the major themes that preoccupied Don Miguel during his life e.g. existence, faith and suicide. Also it is a truly impressive demonstration of his ability to write, since the way fiction and fact are intertwined in the narrative is one of his key areas of interest.

Augusto Pérez, the protagonist, is trying to figure out the meaning of life, he has found himself so carefree that he is trying to find things to do and think about and he goes in for the toughest of all questions. Through interaction with others around him in a way in which we are only interested in his mind, we see an unfolding exploration of life and its central questions. The book is cleverly constructed with many images and symbols that are important along the way, but what is interesting is that it is not a novela (a novel), but a nivola, a genre created by a character in the book so that he can write a book with the rules that he wants. In fact, isn’t this character writing the novel we are reading? Time and again, we are confused by the author, not sure where we stand, are we looking from the outside, or are we on the inside looking out? The fiction revolves around us as we engage with the thoughts of the protagonist, and we are left with a great deal to think about. If you want a novel that is going to throw up questions and make you think then this is definitely for you.

I find Unamuno very approachable linguistically, so I would highly recommend people to read it in Spanish. It is not a very long novel (his other novels are even shorter and equally worth reading e.g. San Manuel Bueno, Mártir or Abel Sánchez) and it is less complex than many others. If you would like further information on any of the shorter novels by Unamuno please do email and I will be happy to supply more information.

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936), was an important scholar in the Spain of his time. He can be considered a writer, an academic and a philosopher. Del Sentido Trágico de la Vida (Of the Tragic Sense of Life) is his most complete philosophical work dealing with many aspects of his thinking. You can further your reading in his collected essays, always written in an interesting and witty style, although always challenging intellectually.