The Alphabet in Crime Fiction: U is for Unamuno, Miguel de Unamuno

This week the Crime Fiction Alphabet arrives to letter ”U”. The Crime Fiction Alphabet is a community meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. Please click HERE to find out the contribution of other fellow participants.

My U is for Unamuno. Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) is the towering intellectual giant of early twentieth-century Spain. He wrote novels, plays, poetry and many essays, but is best remembered for his fictional works and for his major philosophical meditation on the nature of existence.

Abel Sanchez – A story of passion – is perhaps Unamuno’s most harrowing novel. Consisting mainly of dialogue it narrates the life of one man, Abel Sanchez, and his problematical relationship with his friend, Joaquin, an obvious deformation of Cain. Abel becomes more successful than Joaquin and is happier, and parallels are drawn between the Biblical story.

First published in 1917, Abel Sanchez in generally considered Spanish novelist Unamuno’s (1864-1936) most intense and disturbing work.

John Macklin (Spanish, U. of Strathclyde) presents a new English translation (Aris & Phillips, Hispanic Classics, April 2009) alongside the Spanish text, together with a substantial introduction. Distributed in North America by The David Brown Book Co. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

I’m planning to re-read it again pretty soon. Stay tuned. Meanwhile you can findHERE an excellent review by Hans Bool.

Abel Sanchez……….. is about the lives of Abel Sanchez and Joaquin Monegro, explicitly referring to the Abel-and-Cain parable of the bible. Both are friend from early childhood. On the first page the conflict is presented: he (Abel) is social, for which people feel sympathy outward going, living on the street and Joaquin is the “nerd” (in modern terminology), studying hard and antipathetic. The climax of the conflict as felt only by Joaquin is when Abel seduces Helena. Joaquin was never able to draw her attention, but nevertheless he is jealous when Abel starts to see her (after asking her to model for him).

Envy does play a role in every society but more than average in Spain it does; according to Unamuno, Envy is said to be the Leprosy of Spain.

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