Ernesto Sábato (SAH-bah-toh) emerged from the Argentine pampas to examine his nation’s character and to explore the existential crisis of modern humanity. He was born on June 24, 1911, in Rojas, Argentina, where his Italian immigrant parents owned the local flour mill. One of the searing events in Sábato’s life came in 1924, when his parents sent him to La Plata to attend secondary school. Torn from his community and large family, Sábato suffered a nervous collapse. He regained stability by immersing himself in the orderly world of mathematics and science. In 1929 he entered the Institute of Physics at the National University of La Plata, where he became involved with anarchist and communist student groups. In 1934 he attended a student communist congress in Brussels, Belgium, and once more fell into mental despondency. He fled to Paris, again finding peace by immersing himself in science. He returned to La Plata, completed his doctorate in 1937, and received a fellowship to study with French physicist Irène Joliot-Curie. After his time in France, he spent a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1940 he accepted professorships in theoretical physics at schools in La Plata and Buenos Aires.
Although science had provided him with needed mental stability, Sábato came to believe that humanity’s desire to rest its physical, mental, and spiritual well-being on science and reason had led to disaster. Thus, he left science by using his teaching positions to finance his literary apprenticeship, served by writing regularly for Sur and La Nación. In 1945 the dictator Juan Perón, offended by...
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