Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato dies at age 99

Sat Apr 30, 2011 11:28am EDT
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By Karina Grazina

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato, whose novel "The Tunnel" is hailed as an existentialist classic and who presided over a probe into the crimes committed by the nation's military rulers, died on Saturday at age 99.

"Humankind cannot live without heroes, martyrs and saints," Sabato, an intellectual known as a tireless activist for justice and human rights, once said.

His death was reported by local media.

Sabato, who trained as a physicist before becoming a writer, had three novels to his name -- "The Tunnel" published in 1948, "On Heroes and Graves" published in 1961 and "Abaddon, The Exterminator" in 1974.

Known for his bald pate, tinted glasses, brush mustache and open-necked shirts, he was viewed as a hero by many in his South American homeland.

After the end of Argentina's notorious 1976-83 military rule, Sabato was chosen to preside over the National Commission on the Disappeared (CONADEP), which investigated the fate of tens of thousands of Argentines who disappeared at the hands of the military -- kidnapped, tortured and killed.

The commission compiled 50,000 pages of chilling evidence of systematic kidnap, torture and rape waged against anyone even remotely suspected of sympathizing with leftist guerrillas.

Its findings and recommendations that the "Dirty War" soldiers should be tried and punished were published in 1984 in a book called "Nunca Mas" ("Never Again").   Continued...