I just watched a great interview to Ernesto Sábato, an Argentinian writer, author of The Tunnel (among other books), championed by writers like Albert Camus, Thomas Mann, and Graham Greene. After graduating with a PhD in physics, he quits science and communism, and dedicates his life to writing and painting.
A student once asked him about some sociological and historical aspects around another of his books (On Heroes and Tombs). Sábato replied that “a great novel is the one that considers those great characteristics of man: the question about God, loneliness, resentment, envy, love, the problem of death. These aspects are eternal, and that’s what the Ecclesiastes means when it says ‘nothing is new under the sun’; the man’s heart is eternal. All other aspects in a great novel, including sociological and historical ones, are almost a pretext.”
During his speech when he received the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, regarding Don Quixote, Sábato asks himself why that supposed satire on knighthood stories, in addition to make us laugh, sometimes it makes us feel a lump in the throat. It is precisely because of the ability of this novel to speak to “man’s heart;” that’s why “the Quixote is still valid for every epoch, for every place in the world,” and “Cervantes is radically Spanish, but at the same time he reveals the mysteries of every man’s soul; as Kierkegaard said, the deeper we dig into our hearts, the deeper we go into the heart of every human being”. I had to start reading Don Quixote after listening to this speech.
In this interview, the interviewer asks about what gives him hope today in Argentina (today means 1988). I really liked his comment on young people and artists (I was surprised when he talks about The Beatles). After watching and listening to several other interviews, it’s impossible not to trust this person. So, in addition to reading Don Quixote, now I have to listen to The Beatles more.
“… although it could seem demagogic, the youth gives me hope. And before going on with your question, I would like to say something about The Beatles, so you [young people] know that I am not so far from you. The Beatles are great musicians, really. I’m not sure if nowadays there is something comparable. This band was made by unknown young guys, and that’s not a reason to underestimate them. When The Beatles started, in those years, I argued with a very important music journalist from Buenos Aires about them. I told him that The Beatles were a very good band and he was surprised about this. I asked him, ‘you like Mozart, for sure;’ ‘yes,’ he replied. I said ‘If you really enjoy music in Mozart, you should also enjoy some music in The Beatles. If you don’t feel that about The Beatles, then you don’t understand Mozart either.’ The man was really furious, but that’s the true. They are great musicians that instinctively reached young people. Changes are unavoidable. We cannot paint as we did during the Renaissance. We cannot make music as we did during Mozart years. In the three novels I published, protagonists are somehow young people. I am really interested in the adolescent, for he is the only one that, along with the artist, lives reality profoundly around him. The rest of people, who are comfortable with reality, have nothing to do neither with adolescents nor with artists. Artists are the closest to adolescents.”