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Literature / Niebla

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Niebla (Mist or Fog) is a novel by Miguel de Unamuno, written in 1907 and published in 1914. The author coined a new word to designate its genre. A regular Spanish equivalent for the word "novel" is "novela". However Unamuno said that the book was actually a distorted version of this, nivola. One can translate it into English distorting the word "novel" as he pleases.

Its main character, Augusto Pérez, is a rich but reclusive young man who keeps a dog Orfeo. He spends his days wandering the streets of his city. Once he notices a beautiful girl, Eugenia, who turns out to be a piano teacher, and immediately falls in love with her. He starts to court the beauty but to no avail even though her uncle and aunt take a liking to him. Eugenia actually prefers Mauricio although he is much less refined, pretty poor and somewhat brutish. Augusto once clandestinely pays the duties of the girl but further enrages her as she is certain that he is trying to buy her.

At this point Augusto meets Rosario, a simple girl who seems to be sincerely and unconditionally fond of him. He is for some time weighing whether to give in to her and have no troubles. However later he opts for a more charismatic and headstrong female and proposes to Eugenia. She suddenly accepts and then Rosario disappears for good. Shortly before the marriage Eugenia runs away with Mauricio leaving Augusto a note in which she says that she and Augusto are no match and recommends him to resume his relationship with Rosario.

And then the main twist of meta-character follows... Augusto wants to commit suicide but needs the second opinion. Enter Miguel de Unamuno in person to whom Augusto writes a letter seeking advice on the matter. Unamuno bluntly responds that he is an author of the nivola where Augusto is a mere character so all his troubles are of Unamuno's doing. At first the author rejects his creature's desire to off himself. Later the two, Augusto and hic creator, meet in person. The writer is annoyed during this encounter as Augusto says that he felt like killing someone, and not Eugenia or Mauricio. The character wanted to murder Unamuno himself. The author then says that Augusto will die - at the point when the protagonist already wants to live. Augusto comes home and indeed dies condemned by the writer.

In the epilogue Orfeo pronounces a heart-shattering speech about his dead master and dies too at his feet.


  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: That's why Eugenia prefers a poor no-gooder Mauricio to a rich intellectual Augusto. Moreover Mauricio lives off various women. He even encourages Eugenia to carry it on with Augusto to squeeze some money out of him.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Appears to be the case at some point. But this trope is probably subverted when Eugenia runs away with Mauricio from the looimg marriage to Augusto. However given how headstrong is Eugenia and how sleazy is Mauricio the things might end very bitter for both of them.
  • Author Powers: This trope is set in action only in the last chapters. Turns out that Miguel de Unamuno actually exists in the universe of the "nivola". And the author can do whatever he wants, he can also cause death to Augusto at any time. In the end the protagonist indeed expires - at the whim of his creator. However this power has one limitation. An author canot resuscitate a dead character.
  • Author's Retaliation: Augusto, the main character meets Unamuno himself, who informs him that he's a fictional character in his book. Augusto does not take this well, and threatens to kill Unamuno, who in turn declares that he will kill him off. When Augusto returns home, he suddenly and inexplicably has the urge to eat, and thus indulges himself with food until it kills him.
  • Berserk Button: Miguel de Unamuno does not take it lightly when a character in his book confesses that he'd like to kill him. That will prompt him to kill that character
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • For Augusto Eugenia is Veronica as she is proud to arrogance and inacceccible. Earthly and caring Rosario is Betty. Two guesses whom he chooses in the end.
    • For Eugenia Augusto who is madly in love with her is Betty while the sulky Mauricio is Veronica. The outcome is the same here.
  • Dead Person Conversation: After Augusto dies at the whim of Miguel de Unamuno, he visits the author in his sleep and they talk quite calmly
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Augusto. Rosario seemed to love him and when he became engaged to Eugenia, the girl disappeared for good. Then Eugenia timely fled with Mauricio.
  • Driven to Suicide: Zigzagged in the bitterest way. Augusto wants to commit suicide but writes to Unamuno for advice. The author informs him that he is in the novel(nivola) and will do anything Unamuno wants. Later Unamuno learns that Augusto was planning to kill him and decides that his character should die and the latter is indeed soon deceased from unspecified causes.
  • Downer Ending: Augusto and his dog Orfeo die in an unorthodox way.
  • First Law of Resurrection: Completely averted. Near the ending a ghost of Augusto visits Miguel de Unamuno in his sleep and tells hims that the author can do anything to his character. The only thing he is unable to perform is to revive a hero of the book once he died. Since Don Quijote cannot be resurrected, the same applies to Augusto, as well as to every other character of every book.
  • The Hero Dies: Augusto does not survive in the end. And how! His creator, Miguel de Unamuno himself, makes him expire after the character during the visit irritates him confessing that he considered nurdering Unamuno.
  • Hikkikomori: Augusto is vesion light. Truly, he mostly spends time either in his house or strolling the streets of his neighborhood. Still he has some friends to drink beer together. Also he can follow a girl and then get to be invited in her house.
  • Intellectual Animal: Orfeo, the dog of Augusto.
  • Medium Awareness: At some point Augusto learns that he is only a character in the book written by Miguel de Unamuno from Salamanca whom he otherwise knows.
  • Only Sane Man: Doña Ermelinda has to be the only sane woman in her household. Her husband is the "theoretic and mystic" anarchist and her niece is too hot-tempered and obstinate.
  • Pride: The defining quality of Eugenia. She is livid when Augusto pays her duties because she thinks he is willing to buy her.
  • Put on the Bus: Rosario disappears without a trace when she learns that Augusto became engaged with Eugenia. Except that once Mauricio comes to Augusto and says that he, Mauricio, has found consolation with Rosario after Eugenia had quit him for Augusto. Which might very easily be a lie.
  • Rage Against the Author: Exactly what Augusto feels [spoiler: for Miguel de Unamuno. He acknowledhes at their meeting that he would quite like to kill him but never tries. Unamuno is in rage and tells Augusto to go back home and die.
  • Real-World Episode: The last part of this book
  • Revolutionaries Who Don't Do Anything: Played very straight for Don Fermín, the uncle of Eugenia. He is an anarchist, but a theoretical and mystic one. Also he is very kind-hearted.
  • Runaway Bride: The sadistic Mauricio wanted Eugenia to become exactly this. He offered her to wait until the day of the marriage and flee Augusto after the ceremony itself. Eugenia is somewhat kinder so she convinces Mauricio quit the city in advance.