Saturday, April 30, 2011

Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato died

Days after Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas died another great Latin American literary name passed away.

Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato died Saturday morning at the age of 99 in his Buenos Aires residence. The Cervantes Prize and Gabriella Mistral award died from complications related to bronchitis though he was in ill health during his latter years including being affected by partial blindness.

Sabato only wrote three novels to his name due to his habit of burning manuscripts but he gained worldwide fame in 1948 for his existentialist classic "El Túnel" ("The Tunnel"). His fictional portrayal of one man's downfall into paranoia was praised by the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Camus. He would continue themes of darkness and surrealism in his subsequent novels "On Heroes and Tombs" (1961) and "The Angel of Darkness" (1974).

Sabato's protagonist in "The Tunnel" would foreshadow his own "slow descent into hell". In 1983 he was appointed to a commission that would investigate thousands of cases of torture, disappearances, and murder under the "Dirty War" regime. Over several months the National Commission on the Disappeared (CONADEP) compiled a whopping 50,000 pages of evidence on widespread human rights abuses committed by the state during the infamous 1976-83 military rule. His findings and recommendations on bringing former junta leaders to justice were detailed in the aptly-titled 1984 text "Nunca Mas" ("Never Again").

figures in the Spanish-speaking world expressed their condolences over Sabato's death such as a statement from Mexico's Culture and Arts National Committee. His death reprsents a "great loss for all Latin Americans," said Chilean government spokeswoman Ena von Baer. Buenos Aires Culture Minister Hernán Lombardi called Sabato a "just and valiant man." "He was a man deeply linked by values and principles," observed former Argentine Supreme Court associate judge Ricardo Gil Lavedra.

The scientist-turned-writer penned numerous essays during his lifetime on areas such as "metaphysics, politics and tango." In recent years his writing nearly ceased as his health worsened though he helped pass the time by painting.

Sabato passed away weeks before his 100th birthday and on the eve of an homage in his honor at Argentina's National Book Fair.

May he rest in piece.

Video Source - YouTube (Alleged trailer of "Ernesto Sabato, my father" includes clips of Sabato's paintings and his handing over the CONADEP report to then-president Raul Alfonsin in 1984).
Online Sources - New York Times, The Latin Americanist, El Espectador, BBC News, Reuters, Buenos Aires Herald, El Universal, La Tercera,,

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