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Format: Mass Market Paperback
On heroes and tombs
One reads much and one is always astounded when he finds the great book amongst the novelist he hasn't even heard of. Ernesto Sabato is Argentinian writer, and up until now, my only view inside literary Argentina was trough the works of JL Borges, so one could easily say that my view was somewhat clouded by the mixture of facts and fantasy, mixture by which Borges became known outside of his own country. This magical realism, feeling that all of the facts in the world that we're looking upon trough the literature, don't need to be explained, feeling that things just happen and that there is some kind of magic, or some kind of sick or paradoxical logic behind it, feeling that became the unique point in understanding of literature and it's part in the world of today.
Whether you like Marquez, Saramango, Borges or Sabato, whether you're a scholar doing research on postmodern thoughts in fiction or you're just some kind of aficionado for everything Spanish, sooner or later you will stumble upon this phenomenon and you'll have to make your opinion about it.
As every style in literature, magical realism had it's golden days, it's peak - period inside which the bests works were created. Everything after that is some kind of poor implementation of supposed rules set by predecessors. When magical realism becomes the goal for itself it looses the touch with the world outside the fictional one, and with that it loses it's magic and sense of purpose.
Sabato's "On heroes and tombs" is fully aware of this fact, and he rarely goes to the extremes of postmodern storytelling, though his protagonists (his subjects) are somewhat demented, strange and disturbing individuals who live and work inside a strange and disturbing country. Everyday politics, everyday talks about soccer, fishing, local legends hand in hand with deep recollection of anarchism, political philosophy, suphragette movement, or aestethics are appearing throughout this book. Every page is filled with some kind of recollection, some kind of symbol, with allusive language of protagonists, fatalistic characters who live and die by the whim of their time, and every densely written page is a small novel of it's own accord.
To many, this may seem pretentious, and may look like a complete failure. Many of those who understand literature as a straightforward fiction in which there is always something that is happening, in which there are strong, dominating characters that know their goals and are working to attain them without so much fuss about it, many of those will be disappointed. "On heroes and tombs" doesn't care much for such a feeling. It's carefully layered structure has plans of it's own, it's pace is a pace for those who take joy in the act of reading and listening to one's own mind, it's narration is complex look into Argentinian history and building itself on it, a complex look into the history of the world. It's allegorical, it's fantastical, it's biographical and it's true on many levels. In a way, considering it's style, it's outdated and unpopular, but that is the way to look upon literature that I really don't care about. "On heroes and tombs" is a modern classic, a book that every radical political activist out there should read, and, supprisingly enough, it won't hurt anyone else who try to do the same.