We only had to read the last story of this collection of short stories but I loved it. It definitely presents you with a saint like image who doesn't even believe in his own cause. Religion without goodness or goodness without religion? Which do you believe the author emphasized?
We are treated to three short stories; or, more properly, a novella and two short stories written in the early 1900's and translated from the Spanish. (The author is Basque.) All three stories have religious overtones (Abel is part of a Cain and Abel envy parody) and all three revolve around men that some might consider "mad." (One of the three dies in an asylum.) Like Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, the stories reflect ideas from the newly developing field of psychology that was spreading though Europe.
The novella, which has the same title as the book, is about an imagined rivalry between two men. I say imagined, because it exists only in the mind of one of the men. But it lasts his entire life, from youth, when he was rejected by a young woman who married the man that became his rival, until he is on his death bed. The rivalry consumes him even as the two men maintain a surface friendship throughout their lives. In another story, a very good doctor publishes bizarre fiction. His writing impacts his practice and he can't figure out why. The third story is about a priest, so kindly and religious, and such a master at bringing unbelievers into the church, that he is considered a local saint. Yet his burden in life is that that he doesn't believe in God.
One of the great thinkers of the 20th century, this Spanish poet, philosopher, novelist and playwrite is, unfortunately, too often over shadowed by the work of later existentialists. Unamuno's short stories are reflective and unsettling. This book contains one of his most popular stories, "San Manuel Bueno, Matyr," about a priest who doesn't believe in God. Though the idea my seem cliche to a contemporary audience, don't underestimate the power of Unamuno's passionate and moving verse.
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..and other themes are treated in this volume. Abel Sanchez, the title narrative, is an incredible reterlling of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Unamuno is able to interweave christian faith and spanish culturalism in order to create a morally compelling story. This collection has had a profound influence on me. I highly recommend it if you are interested in Christianity, Spanish literature, or even good literature.
I read the Spanish version of this story a year ago and loved it. Unamuno probes the psychology of envy, which he describes as "the national disease of Spain", showing the self-hatred involved. This is a story of Cain and Abel told with loving understanding for Cain.