The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and in Peoples
London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1921. First English edition. Octavo. Navy blue boards with gilt title to spine. Foxing to front and rear paste-down and free endpapers. Minor wear to corners. Bright text block throughout. Rare in this condition. Near-fine. Item #10
Uncommon first English edition of Miguel de Unamuno’s (1864–1936) celebrated philosophical essay on the human condition and the enduring struggle between reason and faith. First published in his native Spain in 1912 as Del sentimiento trágico de la vida en los hombres y en los pueblos, Unamuno’s famous cris de coeur was subsequently translated and published in English in 1921 by Macmillan. Unamuno was among a coterie of influential Spanish intellectuals referred to as the “Generation of ’98” devoted to renewing the intellectual and cultural heritage of Spain. Unamuno himself was a philosopher, poet, playwright, essayist, and novelist, and he was also among Europe’s leading existentialist scholars. In the tradition of Augustine, Pascal, and Kierkegaard, The Tragic Sense of Life represents Unamuno’s primal exploration of that inner deadlock between an exacting rationality and a passionate religious faith that has characterized humanity throughout the ages. For Unamuno, the former terminated in a cold and sterile skepticism while the latter soared beyond the bounds of apprehension and explanation. The Tragic Sense of Life records Unamuno’s primordial struggle with this all-too human contradiction and his attempt to build a theory of life rooted in love and the will to live. As Unamuno exclaims with Sénancour, “Man is perishable. That may be; but let us perish resisting, and if it is nothingness that awaits us, do not let us so act that it shall be a just fate.” A towering work of twentieth-century philosophy and a defining statement of modern existentialism.