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The Generation of '98: Writers Of Spain

Updated on June 19, 2014

Antonio Machado: A Visionary Poet

Spain's Literary Greats

The Generation of '98 (1898) proved to be one of the most famous groups of writers in Spanish history. There were many memorable figures such as Pio Baroja, Azorin, Ramon del Valle Inclan, Miguel Unamuno and the poet Antonio Machado. This group of writers is organized collectively because they all dealt with the moral and socio-political crisis they saw Spain undergoing. The loss of the colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and the aftermath of the Spanish-American war left Spain in a turbulent time. The political struggles within Spain were also important in shaping this group. There were different sides and opinions during this time about what kind of government Spain should have. Most of this group opposed the idea of the restoration of the monarchy. They also thought that the Republic went to excesses, but they ended up strongly opposing the rebel forces led by Franco. In short, this group explored their country's cultural and moral consciousness, its history, its present, and contemplated its future.

This group influenced the rest of 20th century art and literature that followed it. It was also important in shaping Spain's political opinions at the time, and they have also influenced Spain's later political figures and their ideologies.

My favorite of this group is Machado, who writes fascinating poetry. His Soledades shows the archetypal journey of the Spaniard, walking through history, walking through time. In his own life, he was a professor of French. He published his first poems in 1901, and his first book of poetry was published in 1903. He also wrote a famous poem in memory of Federico Garcia Lorca's death, a fellow poet who died at the hands of Franco's rebel forces. Machado was influential on Lorca, and vice versa. The two respected each other's work immensely.

Miguel de Unamuno was more of a philosopher. He wrote in many genres, including novels, essays, and poems. He was quite courageous in his public speeches, even putting his life in danger for speaking his mind boldly against political regimes. One such speech involved an attack against a leader in Franco's rebel forces, and yet he survived intact. His idealism was fierce and well-articulated, and he strove to seek the truth first and foremost, even know he knew that he could never attain this high ideal.

I like this group a good deal, but in general, I don't tend to gravitate towards writers who are primarily political and social. Machado wrote some from a vein of social realism, and social realism (the depiction of social injustice) is not a genre I like all that much. I tend to favor what is universal and transcendent and even aesthetically focused. And yet some of this group seems to touch on these themes, too. For instance, Machado uses settings like fountains and old parks to enter into a dream-like discourse. These archetypal landmarks become starting points to approach time and memory. Unamuno, too, has ideas that can apply to the essence of what it means to be human, not just to political situations.

These writers remind me some of the enlightenment philosopher's such as John Locke, Adam Stuart, and Rousseau, in that those writers explored political philosophy and social issues. They also seem to have similarities to some of the late 19th century American transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Though not necessarily transcendentalist, those philosopher's touched on political themes, especially Thoreau in Walden. The Generation of '98 though seems unique in that they all centered in a specific time and place in Spain, and they all in their own way loved the uniqueness of Spain, though without blind sentimentality. In turn, they speak of the cultural heritage of Spain in a way that can't completely compare to groups of writers from other countries.

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