```> What is is opposite of inspect for strings, ie the function parsing
> strings external representation (as strings)?
>
> i.e. I do know that "a\tb".inspect gives the 6 character string
> "\"a\\tb\"" but what is the method or function that, given the
> argument "\"a\\tb\"" produces the "a\tb" string of 3 characters?

I'll try this, assuming I unserstand you correctly.

>> a="a\tb"
=> "a\tb"
>> p a.to_s
"a\tb"

Of course, calling to_s() on itself perhaps in this instance is silly,
as you know what it is, but I think that does what you're asking?

> Also how can I easily parse (ie read) from a file such a string like
> the output of inspect?

Can you provide an example of what you mean?  Such as sample data?