María Zambrano

María Zambrano
María Zambrano ca. 1918.JPG
María Zambrano Alarcón

(1904-04-22)April 22, 1904
DiedFebruary 6, 1991(1991-02-06) (aged 86)
Madrid, Spain
Notable work
El hombre y lo divino [Man and the divine], La Confesión [The Confession]
AwardsPríncipe de Asturias Award
Cervantes Prize
Main interests
poetry, mysticism, nihilism, religion, the human
Notable ideas
poetical reason
Firma de Maria Zambrano.jpg

María Zambrano Alarcón (22 April 1904, in Vélez-Málaga – 6 February 1991, in Madrid) was a Spanish essayist and philosopher associated with the Generation of '36 movement. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award (1981) and the Miguel de Cervantes Prize (1988).


María Zambrano Alarcón was born on 22 April 1904 in Vélez-Málaga, Spain, daughter of Blas José Zambrano García de Carabante, friend and collaborator of Antonio Machado, and Araceli Alarcón Delgado. In 1905, the family moved to Madrid.

Zambrano studied under and was influenced by José Ortega y Gasset and went on to teach metaphysics at Madrid University and at the Instituto Cervantes from 1931 to 1936. During the 20s and 30s, she actively campaigned for the establishment of the Spanish Second Republic. However, after Spain became a Republic again, disillusioned with the realities of party politics, she declined the possibility of becoming an MP and refused further participation in party politics. Nevertheless, with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, she openly sided with the Republic and consequently went into exile after its defeat in 1939.

After living in France, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Italy, France again and Switzerland, Zambrano finally returned to Madrid in 1984 after the death of Franco.


Respected by her peers, she maintained contact with Italian intellectuals as well as her compatriots Rafael Alberti and Jorge Guillén.

A slow process of recognition of her work commenced in Spain in 1966 with the publication of J. L. Aranguren's article "Los sueños de María Zambrano" (The Dreams of María Zambrano) in the important cultural and scientific Revista de Occidente, founded by Ortega y Gasset, a review to which leading contemporary philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl contributed.

In 1981 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities in its first edition, and in 1983 Malaga University named her Doctor honoris causa.

In 1988 she became the first woman to be awarded the Miguel de Cervantes Prize.

María querida (Dearest Maria), a film directed by José Luis García Sánchez in 2004, is about her life.

In December 2007, when the Madrid-Málaga high-speed rail line was opened, railway company RENFE renamed Málaga railway station María Zambrano.


Selected primary literature:
  • Horizonte del liberalismo (Horizon of Liberalism) (1930).
  • Hacia un saber del alma (1934).
  • Filosofía y poesía (Philosophy and Poetry) (1940).
  • La agonía de Europa (The Agony of Europe) (1945).
  • Hacia un saber sobre al alma (Towards a Knowledge of the Soul) (1950).
  • El hombre y lo divino (Man and the Divine) (1955).
  • Persona y democracia (Person and Democracy) (1959).
  • España, sueño y verdad (Spain, dream and truth) (1965).
  • La tumba de Antígona (Antigone's Tomb) (1967).
  • Claros del bosque (1977).
  • De la aurora (1986).
  • El reposo de la luz (1986).
  • Para una historia de la piedad (Towards a history of charity) (1989).
  • Delirio y destino (written in 1953; published in 1989), translated by Carol Maier, with a commentary by Roberta Johnson, Delirium and Destiny: A Spaniard in Her Twenties (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999).
  • Unamuno (written in 1940; published in 2003).
  • Cartas de la Pièce. Correspondencia con Agustín Andreu (2002).
  • Islas (Islands) (Ed. Jorge Luis Arcos) (2007).
Secondary literature:
  • Bush, Andrew. "María Zambrano and the Survival of Antigone," diacritics 34 (3–4) (2004): 90–111.
  • Caballero, Beatriz. "La centralidad del concepto de delirio en el pensamiento de María Zambrano," Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies (12) (2008): 89–106.
  • Caballero Rodríguez, Beatriz. María Zambrano: A Life of Poetic Reason and Political Commitment. Cardiff: University of Wales Press (2017).
  • Special Issue: María Zambrano In Dialogue. Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 16. 4
  • Ros, Xon. The Cultural Legacy of María Zambrano. Cambridge: Legenda (2017).


  • Claire Buck (ed.), Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature (1992)
  • Caballero Rodríguez, Beatriz, María Zambrano: A Life of Poetic Reason and Political Commitment (Wales University Press, 2017).

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