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Ernesto Sábato
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Ernesto Sábato

Ernesto Sábato Ernesto Sábato[2†]

Ernesto Sábato, born as Ernesto Roque Sábato, was an Argentine novelist, journalist, essayist, painter, and physicist[1†][2†]. He was born on June 24, 1911, in Rojas, Argentina[1†][2†]. Sábato’s novels are notable for their concern with philosophical and psychological issues[1†]. His political and social studies were highly influential in Argentina in the latter half of the 20th century[1†].

Early Years and Education

Ernesto Sábato was born on June 24, 1911, in Rojas, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina[1†][2†]. He was the son of Francesco Sábato and Giovanna Maria Ferrari, Italian immigrants from Calabria[1†][2†]. His father was from Fuscaldo, and his mother was an Arbëreshë (Albanian minority in Italy) from San Martino di Finita[1†][2†]. He was the tenth of a total of 11 children[1†][2†].

Sábato began his studies at the Colegio Nacional de La Plata[1†][2†]. He then studied physics at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, where he earned a PhD[1†][2†]. He did postdoctoral work at the Curie Laboratory in Paris in 1938 and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1939[1†][3†]. After his time in France, he returned to Argentina in 1940[1†][3†].

From 1940 to 1945, he taught theoretical physics at the National University of La Plata and at a teachers college in Buenos Aires[1†]. His early academic career was marked by his opposition to the Juan Perón government, which led to his removal from his teaching posts in 1945[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Ernesto Sábato began his career as a physicist and mathematician, teaching theoretical physics at the National University of La Plata and at a teachers college in Buenos Aires from 1940 to 1945[1†][2†][4†]. His early academic career was marked by his opposition to the Juan Perón government, which led to his removal from his teaching posts in 1945[1†][2†].

Sábato’s transition from science to literature began while studying in Europe, where he interacted with surrealists such as Wilfredo Lam and André Bretón[1†][4†]. After returning to Argentina in 1940, he began to contribute to the literary section of La Nación, one of Argentina’s leading newspapers[1†]. His articles stated his opposition to the Juan Perón government, and as a result, he was removed from his teaching posts in 1945[1†].

His first literary success was “Uno y el universo” (1945; “One and the Universe”), a series of aphorisms, statements, and personal observations on diverse philosophical, social, and political matters[1†]. His first novel, “El túnel” (1948; “The Tunnel”; Eng. trans. The Outsider), won him national and international notice[1†][2†]. The protagonist of the novel is a typical existential antihero who is unable to communicate with anyone. Faced with the absurdity of the human condition, he withdraws from society[1†].

Sábato’s oeuvre includes three novels: “El Túnel” (1948), “Sobre héroes y tumbas” (1961) and “Abaddón el exterminador” (1974)[1†][2†]. The first of these received critical acclaim upon its publication from, among others, fellow writers Albert Camus and Thomas Mann[1†][2†]. The second is regarded as his masterpiece[1†][2†].

His writings led him to receive many international prizes, including the Miguel de Cervantes Prize (Spain), the Legion of Honour (France), the Jerusalem Prize (Israel), and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (France)[1†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Ernesto Sábato’s literary career is marked by three significant novels:

  1. El Túnel (1948)[2†][5†]: This was Sábato’s first novel, which received critical acclaim upon its publication from, among others, fellow writers Albert Camus and Thomas Mann[2†]. The story is a deep dive into the mind of an existential antihero who is unable to communicate with anyone[2†].
  2. Sobre héroes y tumbas (1961)[2†][5†]: Regarded as his masterpiece, this novel is a complex exploration of Argentine identity, with the city of Buenos Aires as a recurring theme[2†]. It delves into the psyche of Argentine society in the aftermath of the fall of Perón[2†].
  3. Abaddón el exterminador (1974)[2†]: This is the last novel of the trilogy started with “El Túnel” and “Sobre héroes y tumbas”. It continues the dark and complex exploration of Argentine identity[2†].

In addition to his novels, Sábato also made significant contributions to essay writing. His principal essays include “Uno y el universo” (1946), “Hombres y engranajes” (1951), “Heterodoxia” (1953), “El otro rostro del peronismo” (1956), “El escritor y sus fantasmas” (1963), and “Apologías y rechazos” (1979)[2†][6†].

Each of these works reflects Sábato’s deep engagement with existentialist themes and his exploration of the human condition[2†]. His writings have had a profound influence on Latin American literature[2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Ernesto Sábato’s work is characterized by a deep exploration of existential themes, a profound psychological study of obsession, isolation, and madness[7†]. His novels, particularly “El Túnel”, are seen as major contributions to the existential novel, following in the footsteps of Sartre and Camus[7†][8†].

“El Túnel” is a somber and existentialist tale that explores the darkest abysses of the human soul[7†]. The story is narrated through the voice of its protagonist, Juan Pablo Castel, a lonely and anguished painter[7†]. The plot centers on Castel’s obsession with María Iribarne, a woman he perceives as the only person capable of understanding his art and world vision[7†]. The novel offers a deep introspection into the mind of its protagonist, immersing the reader in a world where obsession and the search for connection play a crucial role[7†].

Sábato’s essays also reflect his metaphysical concerns[7†][8†]. In “Uno y el universo”, he argues that humans must reject the reductivity of positivistic science and return to a balance that incorporates the intuitive, the irrational, and the subjective[7†][8†]. His essay “Hombres y engranajes” includes a discussion on “The Existential Reaction” that discusses Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevski, Sartre, and Albert Camus—the pantheon of literary existentialism[7†][8†].

In addition to his literary contributions, Sábato is also recognized for his defense of fundamental principles such as freedom of the press, free elections, and democratic processes[7†][8†]. His political writings, often endangering his livelihood and exposing him to physical danger, have created international sympathy for him[7†][8†].

Sábato’s work describes an alienated and indifferent world in which religion no longer provides a foundation for the values of society[7†][9†]. It is a world dominated by positivism, reason, and science[7†][9†].

Personal Life

Ernesto Sábato was born into a well-to-do family in Rojas, Buenos Aires province[10†]. He married his childhood sweetheart, Matilde Kusminsky-Richter, a fellow student[10†][6†]. Together, they had two children[10†][6†].

Sábato’s personal life was marked by a series of tragic events. His first son, Jorge, was killed in a car accident in 1995[10†]. Three years later, in 1998, his wife Matilde passed away[10†]. These personal losses deeply affected Sábato and brought home to him a sense of loneliness[10†].

Despite the hardships he faced, Sábato found solace in his work. In addition to his writing, he was also a painter[10†]. His contributions to literature and the arts were recognized in 1984 when he was awarded the Cervantes literary prize in Spain[10†].

In 1996, Sábato was presented with an Honorary Doctorate Degree by the University of the Republic[10†][6†]. This recognition served as a testament to his significant contributions to literature and his enduring influence on Argentine culture.

Conclusion and Legacy

Ernesto Sábato’s legacy is profound and enduring. His novels, essays, and political and social studies have had a significant influence in Argentina and beyond[1†]. His works, characterized by their deep exploration of philosophical and psychological themes, continue to be studied and admired for their insight into the human condition[1†].

Sábato’s work describes an alienated and indifferent world in which religion no longer provides a foundation for the values of society. It is a world dominated by positivism, reason, and science[1†][9†]. His writings reflect his concerns about the loss of moral and metaphysical foundations in modern society[1†].

In addition to his literary contributions, Sábato was also recognized for his commitment to social issues. He was seen as the very image of the intellectual that is committed to the social issues[1†][11†]. Despite the frequent untidiness of his prose or his emphatic declarations about man and his contradictions, the general public appreciated his dedication to exploring and addressing societal challenges[1†][11†].

Sábato’s influence extended beyond literature. He was also a painter, and his artistic works further contributed to his legacy[1†][11†]. His contributions to literature and the arts were recognized in 1984 when he was awarded the Cervantes literary prize in Spain[1†].

Ernesto Sábato passed away on April 30, 2011, in Buenos Aires, but his impact on literature and Argentine culture endures[1†][11†]. His works continue to be read and studied, and his insights into the human condition remain as relevant today as they were during his lifetime[1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Ernesto Sábato: Argentine writer [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Ernesto Sabato [website] - link
  3. eNotes - Ernesto Sábato Biography [website] - link
  4. Bontena - Ernesto Sábato, Argentine Novelist, Journalist, Essayist, Painter, and Physicist [website] - link
  5. BBC World Service - Ernesto Sabato [website] - link
  6. Encyclopedia.com - Ernesto Sábato [website] - link
  7. Lecturia - Ernesto Sabato: "The Tunnel". Summary and analysis [website] - link
  8. eNotes - Ernesto Sábato Analysis [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Ernesto Sábato Critical Essays [website] - link
  10. The Guardian - Ernesto Sábato obituary [website] - link
  11. America Magazine - The Legacy of Ernesto Sabato [website] - link
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