Katsumi's Reviews > El túnel

El túnel by Ernesto Sabato
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May 16, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: mystery-crime-thriller

** spoiler alert ** The Tunnel is a short novel, an anatomy of a crime of murder, narrated by the perpetrator-a well known Buenos Aires artist, Juan Pablo Castel. Castel becomes overwhelmingly obsessed with a mysterious 26 year old woman, Maria Iribarne, who visit’s a show of his paintings. Observed by Castel from a distant part of the gallery, Maria appears to be intently gazing at a small yet significant feature of one of Castel’s paintings:

…“in the upper left-hand corner of the canvas was a remote scene framed in a tiny window: an empty beach and a solitary woman looking at the sea. She was staring into the distance as if expecting something, perhaps some faint and faraway summons. In my mind the scene suggested the most wistful and absolute loneliness…No one seemed to notice the scene; their eyes passed over it as if it were something trivial, mere embellishment. With the exception of a single person, no one seemed to comprehend that the scene was an essential component of the painting.”

Maria disappears in the crowded gallery and Castel quickly becomes obsessed with finding the only person who truly understood the meaning of his artistic endeavor. In fact, obsession, is one of the major themes of this novel. Castel over analyzes his thoughts and observations of the world and people around him which he basically holds in disdain and is greatly disappointed by. In a way Maria becomes the light that shines through that small window Castel had painted in the corner of his canvas…she becomes the light and meaning of his life.

The obsessive theme instills itself in the writing style of Sabato’s book which is comprised of brief staccato like chapters that move the interior action of his own thoughts from page to page. Pressured to first find Maria and, then once found, to possess her, his passion and fears push the tale forward.

The imagery of “the tunnel” becomes clearer near the end of the book when he describes the tunnel as a passageway of time within which we all live our lives. Often the tunnels run parallel to one another and one catches glimpses of the other but we are stuck within our own walls. It is an image that strikes at the heart of alienation and it is this theme of the modern man, of the existential man, that Sabato seeks to depict in the only italicized passage that appears in the book.

“and that after all there was only one tunnel, dark and solitary: mine, the tunnel in which I had spent my childhood, my youth, my entire life”

In the end this short novel carries a powerful punch.
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