Photo: Espace Culturel Ernesto Sabato

Borges: Influence and References

Ernesto Sabato

By Milan M. Cirkovic

Borges' influences on his compatriot, the great Argentinian novelist, nuclear physicist, and humanist Ernesto Sabato, are quite specific, and may be found in both Sabato's novels and his essays. The former works consist of a loosely-bound trilogy on the ancient Greek model, and the latter follow a style similar to Borges's "Second Investigations."
It is in his novels that the influence of Borges is felt in a most peculiar way. Although in style there are a few superficial resemblances, in actual subject they are almost diametrically opposed. Indeed, the metaphysical discourse differs so much that some critics have been moved to dub Sabato the "Anti-Borges." As if to underline this, in the second and best of his novels, On the Heroes and Tombs, Sabato briefly introduces Borges as a character! This cameo is followed by a most unflattering discussion of Borges's stories, including "The Babylonian Lottery" and "The Three Faces of Judas."
Borges and Sabato met several times, and their resulting dialogues have been published in a form of book. Interestingly, they agree on more than one would expect on the basis of their literary works alone. One is left to speculate that a façade of reserve on the part of younger Sabato was partially caused by Borges' flirtations with the autoritarian military regimes in South America, to which liberal leftist Sabato was always persistently hostile (he was, in fact, the president of the committee which searched for the "missing persons" after the military junta in Argentina was overthrown). In any case, their works represent a strange and fascinating case of a Heraclitian process of obtaining a precious new quality from conflict of ideas.

Milan M. Cirkovic
Dept. of Physics & Astronomy
SUNY at Stony Brook,
Stony Brook, NY 11794-3800

Additional Information

Ernesto Sabato Page -- At the Literatura Argentina Contemporánea site. (Spanish)

Selected Works of Ernesto Sabato


The Writer in the Catastrophe of Our Time
Ernesto Sabato, Asa Zatz (Translator) / Paperback
Published 1990

The Tunnel
Ernesto Sabato, Margaret Sayers Peden (Translator) / Paperback
Published 1991

On Heroes and Tombs
Ernesto Sabato

Angel of Darkness
Ernesto Sabato, Andrew Hurley (Translator) / Hardcover
Published 1991


Antes del fin
Ernesto Sabato / Paperback
Published 1999

El Tunel
Ernesto Sabato / Paperback
Published 1998

Abaddon El Exterminador
Ernesto Sabato / Paperback
Published 1995

El Dragon Y LA Princesa
Ernesto Sabato / Paperback
Published 1996

Sobre Heroes Y Tumbas/on Heroes and Tombs
Ernesto Sabato / Paperback
Published 1984

Return to Borges Influence