Ernesto Sabato – RIP

Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato has died. He is probably best known for the Tunnel which was written in 1948 and is available in English. You can read a couple brief obit at the BBC and something via the Canadian Press.

Sabato was a widely admired 73-year-old intellectual, author of works such as “On Heroes and Tombs,” when President Raul Alfonsin asked him to lead an investigation into crimes committed under the soldiers who led Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

He called his work of helping to document the murders, tortures and illegal arrests committed by a regime he had initially supported a “descent into hell.” The commission’s report, “Never Again,” served as the basis for prosecuting key figures in the dictatorship after the return to civilian rule.

Official and independent agencies estimate that 12,000 to 30,000 were killed by government forces seeking to wipe out leftists.

Like many Argentines, Sabato initially welcomed the coup that overthrew President Isabel Peron following mounting economic problems, social turmoil and clashes with leftist guerrillas who carried out kidnappings and killings.

He joined other writers in a meeting with dictator Jorge Rafael Videla shortly after the takeover and described him as “a cultured man, modest and intelligent.”

Even as government repression reached its height in 1978, Sabato said in an interview that “many things have improved: the armed terrorist bands have been put, in large part, under control.” He grew critical by 1979, denouncing censorship.