Ernesto Sábato Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to his three novels, Ernesto Sábato (SAH-bah-toh) has published several volumes of essays. His career as a writer can be divided into two major periods. The first includes the publication of The Outsider, his first novel, and three volumes of essays: Uno y el universo (1945; one and the universe), Hombres y engranajes: Reflecciones sobre el dinero, la razón, y el derrumbe de nuestro tiempo (1951; men and gears: reflections on the money, the reason, and the collapse of our time), and Heterodoxia (1953; heterodoxy). The second period begins in 1961 with the publication of his novel On Heroes and Tombs and includes such collections of essays as El escritor y sus fantasmas (1963; the writer and his ghosts), Tango: Discusión y clave (1963; the tango: discussion and key), Tres aproximaciones a la literatura de nuestro tiempo: Robbe-Grillet, Borges, Sartre (1968; three approaches to the literature of our time: Robbe-Grillet, Borges, Sartre), Itinerario (1969; itinerary), and La convulsión política y social de nuestro tiempo (1969; political and social upheaval of our time).

During the time between these periods of major production, Sábato also produced two volumes largely devoted to political problems in Argentina: El otro rostro del peronismo (1956; the other face of Peronism) and El caso Sábato (1956; the case of Sábato), the last a collection of documents gathered by his friends to account for Sábato’s resignation of his post as editor of Mundo Argentino, an important weekly journal. Sábato had resigned to protest the policies of the provisional government that followed the overthrow of Juan Domingo Perón in 1955.

Metaphysical concerns are the subject of many of Sábato’s essays. Uno y el universo contains the idea that humans must reject the reductivity of positivistic science and return to a balance that incorporates the intuitive, the irrational, and the subjective. In Heterodoxia, there is a discussion of Jean-Paul Sartre, while Hombres y engranajes includes an essay on “The Existential Reaction” that discusses Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevski, Sartre, and Albert Camus—the pantheon of literary existentialism.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Ernesto Sábato’s reputation as one of Argentina’s leading novelists is well established, both within his own country and abroad. His first novel, The Outsider, has been translated into a number of foreign languages and has an assured place in the history of modern fiction. His second novel, On Heroes and Tombs, while originally published in 1961, appeared in English twenty years later. His third novel, The Angel of Darkness, was translated into English in 1991. The Outsider has been acclaimed as a major contribution to the existential novel, following in the footsteps of Sartre and Camus. While Sábato’s political writings have been primarily of interest to those who are most directly concerned—the people of Argentina—his defense of such fundamental principles as freedom of the press, free elections, and democratic processes, often endangering his livelihood as well as exposing him to physical danger, has justly created international sympathy for him. He has also written about his methods of work and the relationship of his experiences to his literary creations.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bachman, Caleb. “Ernesto Sábato: A Conscious Choice of Words.” Americas 43 (January/February, 1991): 14-20. A look at Sábato’s life and work. Addresses the dark tone of his novels, as well as comments by critics “who feel that his ‘black hope’ is several shades too dark.”

Busette, Cedric. “La familia de Pascual Duarte” and “El túnel”: Correspondences and Divergences in the Exercise of Craft. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1994. Little in English is available on Sábato; this study reveals some of his overall concerns, expressed also in The Outsider. Includes bibliographical references.

Cheadle, Norman. “Mise en abyme and the Abyss: Two Paintings in Ernesto Sábato’s Trilogy of Novels.” Hispanic Review 63 (Autumn, 1995): 543-553. Discusses Sábato’s use of iconic metaphors in his novels.

Flores, Angel. Spanish American Authors: The Twentieth Century. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1992. A good overall view of Sábato’s work. Offers a brief critical analysis of selected novels and common themes that thread through Sábato’s fiction.

Oberhelman, Harley Dean. Ernesto Sábato. New York: Twayne, 1970. An excellent biography of Sábato. Oberhelman brings together the man and his works in one of the best biographies in the Twayne series.