• Humanities
  • 29 de May de 2024
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Unamuno’s Tales (4): “The marmot”

Unamuno’s Tales (4): “The marmot”

Unamuno’s Tales (4): “The marmot”

Unfortunately, we and our student body are the marmot

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Andreu Navarra


“La Marmota” (The marmot) is not a tale, but a journalistic column with traits of what Juan José Millás would call an ‘articuento’1. This article was published by Miguel de Unamuno in Las Noticias de Barcelona on April 6, 1899. It was not included in the writer’s Complete Works, so it remained in obscurity for a century until Professor Adolfo Sotelo unearthed it and reintroduced it to the public in the volume Miguel de Unamuno: articles in Las Noticias de Barcelona (1899-1902), published by Lumen in 1993.

The structure of this column is very simple: Unamuno presents us with a parallel double story: Initially, he cites a French physiological experiment involving a marmot. The creature is placed under a glass bell the edges of which are sealed with cement, causing the marmot to breathe its own breath until it falls asleep and finally succumbs to oxygen deprivation.

The second parallel story of the text is the history of Spain itself, as interpreted by Unamuno in 1899: “For an extended period, the majority of our public has lived, economically, intellectually, religiously and artistically in a self-sustaining manner, lethargic like the marmot within its bell, meticulously sealing the fissures of this enclosure, lest the external air infiltrate and the delicate patriots, the worshippers of authenticity, catch a cold”.

Towards the conclusion, he states: “There is talk of the inspiration of our classics; but who would contemplate seeking it at the source from which they drew it? During the classical era of Castilian literature, Spain lived openly to the four winds, extending its influence through Italy, Flanders, a significant portion of France and America. Its universal dream began since the intimate Inquisition elevated its spirit. The bell must be completely broken”.

As for literature, as soon as you, dear reader, attempt to persuade a public official of the necessity for shared readings—ones that are enjoyed, debated, and studied with structure and a certain order—you will realize that they are either ignorant of or have forgotten what literature is. Books, cultures seem to perturb them: the public officials who are responsible for the flow and intermingling of letters appear to be allergic to words. They have capitulated so long ago to a Taylorist and ultra-classist utilitarianism that they would not dare to open a book even at gunpoint. They will not know what you are talking about. Literatures are a public danger to our education officials, perhaps because they intuit that cultivating the letters can make them look like idiots. They are indeed correct, and they do well to fear it. For instance, a student body that has read “La Marmota”, this heterodox article of just three pages, and has freely debated it in class, would represent a genuine Bourdieuan thread to our mediocre political class.

And, is it not so profoundly ‘castizo’2 this pedagogical cynicism, which rejects all forms of rational thought or even minimally empirical analysis, defending unspeakable interests with the with the typical national laziness and cheekiness?

Even so, these individuals with hardened minds feel the need to fortify their pedagogical bunkers with some form of doctrinal system, to avoid the confrontation with reality and the acceptance of responsibilities. This inquisitorial and bureaucratic system is the competency pedagogy, defended tooth and nail by the defenders of the current legislative mummy. These pedagogues do not read anything, they are not interested in anything. Their accepted and self-celebrated ‘common sense’, nourished by with their own flatulence, refuses to air out with external experiences, does not admit outsiders, oxygenations. It has been almost forty years remaining almost identical to itself, allergic to the classics, to any form of greatness or intellectual excellence, hating and extirpating the damned culture. The Lomloist3 pedagogy is the latest version of the glass bell.

When will we have enough courage to shatter it?

I know that this non-articuento is too brief, excessively schematic, much like the pedagogical simplism, full of cyclical arguments that do not admit any falsifiability, because they also do not withstand any comparison with social reality. This pedagogy that drains, bureaucratizes and suffocates us is the heir of that ‘intimate inquisition’ that Unamuno referred to. Unfortunately, we and our student body are the marmot, subjected to polluted air under a horrible glass bell, indefinitely, by decree. Our country continues to be subjected to this cruel experiment of the marmot doomed to asphyxiate, and each education law contributes to add a bit more cement to the sealed slots of the lethal bell.


1 article originally published in the press, exhibiting characteristics more akin to works of fiction.

2 authentic, genuine

3 LOMLOE stands for “Ley Orgánica de Modificación de la Ley Orgánica de Educación,” which is a Spanish term that translates to “Organic Law for the Modification of the Organic Law of Education” in English. It refers to a significant education reform law in Spain that was passed in December 2020.

Source: educational EVIDENCE

Rights: Creative Commons

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