Fiction & politics - Ernesto Sabato

 Our Carboneras reading club's recent selection of Ernesto Sabato's famous 1948 novel El túnel (The Tunnel) reminded me of this interview I did of Sabato in his home near Buenos Aires in January, 1986:
Fiction and Politics: Interview with Ernesto Sábato
Ernesto Sábato and Geoffrey Fox
The Threepenny Review, No. 32 (Winter, 1988), pp. 4-6
Sabato at the time was under police protection from right-wing gangs because of his prominence as chair of the commission that investigated the "disappearances" of civilians by the military regime of 1976-83. We talked about those tensions, of course, but especially interesting is his insistence on the importance of fiction for saving a country "from madness." After quoting Karl Jaspers on the Greek tragedians as "educators of their people and of its ethos," he goes on to say
 In a very profound sense, as mysterious as that of dreams, fiction molds, shapes, giving form to a country. … Fiction does not operate only with the head. It works with passions, with feelings, with intuitions, with symbols, with myths. All that we call poetic thought. And that is educative, and is saving. The dream saves us from madness. The nocturnal dream, of all men. We cannot survive without dreaming. Without that kind of collective dream that is fiction, neither could a nation survive. The nation learns, has its catharsis, in dreaming and in fiction. And without cathaarsis man cannot live.

(Note: His name is commonly written with the accent mark to indicate the stress on the first syllable; he himself has always written his name as his Italian parents did, without accent mark, so you will see it both ways in bibliographies. I mention this trivial question only because it took up hours of communications with Wendy Lesser and even phone calls to Buenos Aires.)