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El Tunel by Ernesto Sabato
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El Tunel (original 1948; edition 2006)

by Ernesto Sabato

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1,258486,290 (3.91)52
Member:princessxflo
Title:El Tunel
Authors:Ernesto Sabato
Info:Catedra (2006), Edition: 28th, Paperback, 165 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sábato (1948)

  1. 10
    La gangrena by Mercedes Salisachs (caflores)
    caflores: Dos confesiones, dos personajes degradándose.
  2. 00
    Contempt by Alberto Moravia (giovannigf)
    giovannigf: Looking for pseudo-existentialist first-person narratives from paranoid misogynists consumed by jealousy? This is your lucky day! I'd recommend Sabato's novel over Moravia's because it's mercifully brief, but you should save yourself the grief and read Tolstoy's masterful "The Kreutzer Sonata" instead.… (more)
  3. 00
    Los suicidas by Antonio Di Benedetto (Ronoc)
  4. 01
    Nunca Mas: The Report of the Argentine National Commission on the Disappeared by ARGENTINE COMMISSION (davidgn)
    davidgn: Ernesto Sábato was the President of CONADEP. El Túnel is his first and best-known novel. Worth reading: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/clives_lives/2007/02/jorge_luis_borges.html
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» See also 52 mentions

Spanish (24)  English (19)  Italian (2)  Romanian (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  All (48)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)


One of the giants of Latin American literature, Ernesto Sábato (1911-2011) lived most of his life in Buenos Aires, Argentina and periodically committed his own manuscripts to the flames, noting in one interview with wry satisfaction how fire is purifying. Fortunately, in addition to many essays, three of his novels survive. Before commenting on ‘The Tunnel’, his first novel written in 1948, some observations on his other two:

‘On Heroes and Tombs’, Sábato’s dark, brooding 500 pager includes an entire hallucinogenic, mindbending section, “Report on Blind People”. The novel also features young Martin and the object of his obsessive love, Alejandra, a reclusive young lady who deals with serious bouts of madness. With every page turned, a reader is led ever further down murky, winding corridors of memory and imagination. Not an easy read.

And Sábato’s second full-length novel, ‘The Angel of Darkness’ is even darker and more brooding, where Sábato himself takes on the role of main character and first-person narrator. In one outlandish scene, Sábato has a nightmare where he shows up on his wedding day as groom wearing only his underwear, marrying a television celebrity with blind Jorge Luis Borges standing in as best man. I mention Borges’s blindness since this novel also involves a search for a Society of the Blind rumored to be responsible for all the world’s ills. With its unique combination of magical realism and philosophic reflections, I judge this as one of the greatest novels ever written. However, on this point, I am an army of one since nearly all critics and readers cite this work as dense, heavy and overly cerebral.

Turning to ‘The Tunnel’, Juan Pablo Castel, first-person narrator of Sábato’s short novel, is a painter who becomes obsessed with a young woman who has a particular appreciation for a scene in one of his paintings. And although ‘The Tunnel’ is the same length as Camus’s ‘The Stranger’ and both are considered works of existential alienation, the obsessive Castel is a universe away from Meursault’s indifference. And to whom may we compare Castel? For my money, narrators in Tommaso Landolfi’s tales of obsession – aristocratic and condescending down to their toes, looking at their fellow humans, even those educated and cultured, or, perhaps, especially those educated and cultured, as a rabble of vulgar, ugly, gluttonous, gross morons.

Back to Castel’s obsession for the young woman. The opening line of the novel: “It should be sufficient to say that I am Juan Pablo Castel, the painter who killed Maria Iribarne.” Hi sits in the room where he is locked up and writes down how once he set eyes on Maria Iribarne he was driven mad by desire. This is one compelling story. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down until I finished. My sense is Sábato wanted his reader to do exactly that – read in one sitting to get the full emotional and psychic impact of Castel’s obsession.

At one point Castel relates a nightmare where he is in an unfamiliar house surrounded by friends and one sinister stranger. We read, “The man began to change me into a bird, into a man-size bird. He began with my feet: I saw them gradually turning into something like rooster claws. Then my whole body began to change, from the feet up, like water rising in a pool. . . . but when I began to speak it was at the top of my voice. Then I was amazed by two facts: the words I wanted to say came out as squawks, screeches that fell on my ears as desperate and alien, perhaps because there was still something human about them, and, what was infinitely worse, my friends did not hear the squawking, just as they had not seen my enormous bird-body.” This nightmare foreshadows a scene in ‘The Angel of Darkness’ where Sábato walks down a street in Buenos Aires, having been transformed into a half-blind, barely aware, four foot bat.

The theme of blindness pops up continually. Maria Iribarne’s husband is blind. During one emotionally charged conversation, Castel accuses Maria of ‘deceiving a blind man’. At another point, Castel conveys how he was blinded by the painful glare of his own shyness and at still another, how his blindness prevented him from seeing a flaw in an idea. And, turns out, we can see how Castel’s obsession made him blind when it came to Maria. For example, the following exchange where Castel first converses with her:

The hardness in her face and eyes disturbed me. “Why is she so cold?” I asked myself. “Why?” Perhaps she sensed my anxiety, my hunger to communicate, because for an instant her expression softened, and she seemed to offer a bridge between us. But I felt that it was a temporary and fragile bridge swaying high above an abyss. Her voice was different when she added:
“But I don’t know what you will gain by seeing me. I hurt everyone who comes near me.”

( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Five stars, with a disclaimer: I did not finish this book. I so hated the protagonist that I could not stand his voice any longer, not because it was poorly written, but because it was extremely well-developed to the point that reading this book was like having a conversation with someone I absolutely detest. So it gets five stars for stylistic coherence, for narrative skill, for sheer excellence in character development. However, I cannot bring myself to finish the book, much as I can't bring myself to have any sort of protracted conversation with my evil exbf from long ago. ( )
  voncookie | Jun 30, 2016 |
Five stars, with a disclaimer: I did not finish this book. I so hated the protagonist that I could not stand his voice any longer, not because it was poorly written, but because it was extremely well-developed to the point that reading this book was like having a conversation with someone I absolutely detest. So it gets five stars for stylistic coherence, for narrative skill, for sheer excellence in character development. However, I cannot bring myself to finish the book, much as I can't bring myself to have any sort of protracted conversation with my evil exbf from long ago. ( )
  anna_hiller | Jun 22, 2016 |
In simple words, this book is an account of how a lone artist - who suffers from extreme paranoia and and is overly analytical with what others say or do - grew to love a woman so obsessively that he killed her. Throughout the book, he simply delves into matters too deeply and neglects the truth of it all. As Sabato takes us through the mind of the murderer, many interesting things arise, such as how the narrator thinks that there are two distinct "I"s in him where one thinks and acts completely opposite to the other. Many unusual yet extraordinary imageries also emerge from his metaphors and such, like this one which I love: "..., that for me memory is a glaring light illuminating a sordid museum of shame." Beautiful yet morose. For all its shortness, this book held many meanings and that's what I love about it. ( )
  novewong | Jul 8, 2015 |
I will say this is one of my favorite books, ever. Is short but it has so much inside! It makes you think about your life, it makes you think about the people that is next to you and your relations. Sabato manage to put all the ingredients in just one book is jut amazing. ( )
  CaroPi | May 6, 2014 |
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Epigraph
"... in pgni caso v'era un solo tunnel, sicuro e solitario: il mio."
Dedication
First words
Bastará decir que soy Juan Pablo Castel, el pintor que mató a Maríá Iribarne; supongo que el proceso está en el recuerdo de todos y que no se necesitan mayores explicaciones sobre mi persona.
It should be sufficient to say that I am Juan Pablo Castel, the painter who killed María Iribarne.
Basterà dire che sono Juan Pablo Castel, il pittore che uccise Maria Iribarne: suppongo che tutti ricordino il processo, e che non occorrano maggiori spiegazioni sulla mia persona.
Quotations
All'epoca in cui avevo degli amici, molte volte si è riso della mia mania di scegliere sempre le vie più tortuose. Io mi domando perché la realtà dev'essere semplice. La mia esperienza mi ha insegnato che, al contrario, non lo è quasi mai e che quando v'è qualcosa che sembra straordinariamente chiaro, un'azione che apparentemente obbedisce a una causa semplice, quasi sempre al di sotto vi sono i moti più complessi.
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Haiku summary
Juan has unhealthy
Obsession with Maria.
Murder ensues: jail!
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345373774, Mass Market Paperback)

"When it was first published in Spanish, THE TUNNEL won the applause of Thomas Mann and Albert Camus and was described as an existentialist classic," reminded The New York Times Book Review, in its recent review. Indeed, THE TUNNEL is one of the most highly regarded short novels of the twentieth century. Since its first publication in 1948, it has been translated into most of the major languages of the world. In the fresh, compelling, and critically acclaimed translation by Margaret Sayers Peden, it is available for a whole new readership.
"The power of Sabato's story remains . . . . He delivers several satisfying satirical thrusts at the vagaries of the life of the urban intellectual that retain a remarkable contemporary resonance . . . . Sabato captures the intensity of passions run into uncharted passages where love promises not tranquility, but danger."
-- Los Angeles Times Book Review

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:43 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Juan Pablo Castel is a tormented and insane painter who falls for Maria, a woman he meets at an art exhibition. She is married to a blind man -the subject of Sabato and Saramago's obsession- and has a house in the countryside. She is also the mistress of her own cousin. Castel discovers this and goes mad with jealousy. We have no way to know the truth, because everything in the novel happens inside Castel's mind.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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