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The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

The Tunnel (original 1948; edition 1948)

by Ernesto Sabato, Margaret Sayers Peden (Translator), Colm Toibin (Introduction)

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1,244476,376 (3.91)52
Title:The Tunnel
Authors:Ernesto Sabato
Other authors:Margaret Sayers Peden (Translator), Colm Toibin (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:novel, existentialism, kafkaesque, obsession, murder, male entitlement

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 (18)  Italian (2)  Romanian (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  All (47)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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 |
Ernesto Sabato writes about an artist, Juan Pablo Castel, narrating his own story about desire and obsessive love through the lens of madness. I would describe the nature of the narrator, but let me quote his own assessment from early in the book:
"My brain was in pandemonium: swarming ideas, emotions of love and loathing, questions, resentment, and memories all blended together or flashed by in rapid succession." (p 47)
Juan had just discovered that his beloved Maria Iribarne was married to a blind man. He thinks, "why hadn't she warned me she was married?" There is much he does not know about Maria in spite of his longing for her; a longing that leads him to the brink of despair.

This story, set in Buenos Aires, is told from the narrator's point of view, but the narrator, like the narrator of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, is deranged, living in an internal world that is filled with discontinuities with the outside world of other people because it is based on his own delusions rather than the real world. His thoughts seem to bounce between two poles represented by moments of acute focus on reality contrasted with a bizarre world where he understands no one and they do not understand him. All of this is enhanced by increasingly complex dreams. He wants to be with Maria but when she seemingly rejects him, by leaving for the "estancia" in the country, he retreats in to a world of "absolute loneliness". He describes this world:
"Usually the feeling of being alone in the world is accompanied by a condescending sense of superiority. I scorn all humankind; people around me seem vile, sordid, stupid, greedy, gross, niggardly. I do not fear solitude; it is almost Olympian." (p 81)

The novel is short with only thirty-nine short chapters over less than one hundred fifty pages. Even so it is complex and suspenseful although it begins with the seemingly straightforward declaration from the narrator that he is "the painter who killed Maria Iribarne." The obsessiveness of his love for Maria is demonstrated by both his stalking her, watching from a distance, and his imagining what she must be thinking, often extrapolating delusional thoughts from a brief note that she has written. For example, when she writes him the note "I think of you, too. Maria" he immediately begins to wonder if she was nervous and whether the note betrayed "real emotion" followed by exuberance over the signature. The simple act of her signing her name led Juan to a feeling that "she now belonged to me." (p 49)
The narrator gradually becomes more intense in his thoughts about Maria. This is accompanied by difficulties relating to the few other people he encounters in the book; symbolized by the disintegration of his painting and by references to the increasing turbulence of the sea.

The story is not without humor demonstrated best by Juan's encounter with a postal clerk who will not return to him a letter he has written to Maria. He demands that it be returned because he left out an important thought. As a reader you almost feel sympathy for Juan as his entreaties are blocked by the petty bureaucrat, but this lighter moment does not last long and the urge to sympathize melts away as he returns to his delusional world.

Ernesto Sabato has created a mesmerizing story of a man who has lost touch with reality and his obsessions over a married woman who eludes his grasp. He is an artist who cannot abide this world so he creates a world of his own. When the two worlds collide the consequences are grave. His narrator shares the sickness of Dostoevsky's narrator in Notes from Underground along with the life of urban denizens found in the works of Hamsun and Kafka among others. Brilliant in its evocation of this modern world it raises questions for any reader who dreams of other realities or shares, even in a little part, questions about the nature of the real world around himself. ( )
2 vote jwhenderson | Mar 9, 2014 |
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"... in pgni caso v'era un solo tunnel, sicuro e solitario: il mio."
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.
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!

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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