(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In an introductory note to his linguistically and ideologically complex novel, Ernesto Sábato admits that the narrative represents his attempt to “free himself of an obsession that is not clear even to himself.” This admission is borne out by the novel’s extraordinary display of unusual imagery, puzzling events and characters, and conflicting political and ethical points of view.

The text of On Heroes and Tombs is presented in four parts. In “The Dragon and the Princess” and “Invisible Faces,” Martín del Castillo meets Alejandra Vidal Olmos, a young woman for whom he develops an immediate fascination. After a long period of pursuit, he finally convinces her to begin a love affair with him. In an attempt to understand the strange behavior of Alejandra, Martín follows her and sees her with another man, whom she later admits is Fernando, her father. Although she seems to be an innocent, introverted woman, Alejandra (who turns out to be the daughter of a decadent aristocratic family) is a prostitute who caters to the wealthy members of Juan Perón’s administration. At the same time, she maintains an incestuous relationship with Fernando, who is her father but was never married to her mother, Georgina.

Fernando Vidal Olmos has written a mysterious document which narrates his frequent hallucinatory experiences, a document incorporated into the text in the third part, “Report on the Blind.” After finishing the report, Fernando goes to his daughter’s home, even...

(The entire section is 618 words.)