The Tunnel (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 28 Apr 2011
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'An existentialist classic ... Retains a chilling, memorable power' (The New York Times Book Review)
'Sabato captures the intensity of passions run into uncharted passages where love promises not tranquillity, but danger' (Los Angeles Times)
Heralded by Albert Camus and Thomas Mann and widely translated, ''The Tunnel'' is the brief, obsessive, sometimes delirious confession of a convicted murderer. (Robert Coover New York Times Book Review)
About the Author
Ernesto Sabato was born in Argentina in 1911. He earned a PhD in physics before relocating to Paris. After World War II, he lost faith in science and began writing fiction, although he would burn much of his work. His three published novels are The Tunnel (1948), his masterpiece On Heroes and Tombs (1961) and The Angel of Darkness (1974). He also led the commission investigating those who disappeared during Argentina's Dirty War of the 1970s. Sabato died in 2011, two months before his 100th birthday.
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It is then a monologue of him recounting how he met her, fell in obsessive love with her and how the tragedy reaches its' inevitable conclusion. This is a masterful work, but it is not an easy read and despite giving it the deserved five stars, which comes up as `I love it', I found i did not love it, but admired it. The story is too destructive, self obsessed and dark to be able to be loved. That then is the strength; Sabato has placed himself in the scary world of Castel and takes us on every twist and turn in this man's mind, to be able to justify his actions. Castel is a vividly unlikable man who looks down on everyone around him and sees artifice and cunning where none exists. This is possibly where he projects his own crooked ways of thinking onto everyone else.
He was praised by Albert Camus amongst others and I can see why as he truly gets under the skin of his creation and is flawless in his analytical approach, much like Camus. It was published as `El Tunel' which has been translated as The Tunnel or The Outsider, as you near the end you will see why `The Tunnel' is far more apt.
This is a short but not an easy read - what does work though is it stays with you for a long while after reading like `Heart of darkness' by Joseph Conrad and as such is an essential novel. I hope that with this re release that his work might find a new audience.
There are no easy answers on offer here and Castel is not a particularly sympathetic or likeable character. He is self-absorbed, hates people and tries to pre-empt every situation by analysing every possible outcome. He is a man trapped in a tunnel while catching glimpses of 'real life' through windows. He can never truly connect with another human being and when he almost does he destroys that connection.
The story is told from one point of view and the other characters are never fleshed out. To me this is on purpose, how can we truly know anyone but ourselves because we do not have access to the inner lives of anyone else, we must try to ascertain their motives from what they say and do, and by doing so we can let out own prejudices and neuroses colour those motives. We are all stuck in tunnels viewing 'real life' through windows, we can only ever be stuck within our own heads tormented by ourselves.
This is not a bleak book though and has Kafka-esque lighter moments, Castel stops the struggle to know someone else, but doesn't mean we have to. He feels imprisoned and thus becomes truly imprisoned. We are the makers of our own lives. It is also an extremely good portrait of a man breaking down and giving his manias full rein within his mind.
Overall a very good book which explores existential type concepts and sits alongside Camus' 'The Outsider' quite comfortably.
This is written in sparse and succinct sentences which makes this easy to read but nevertheless the reader can relate totally with the narrator. You the reader start to understand and share his obessions and frustrations.
I found this a compelling read which picked up pace as it hurtled towards its inevitable end. This is well written and very evocative of its setting. It is slightly disturbing because you find yourself totally immersed in the main character but this is one of its strengths along with the taut writing where a word never feels wasted and the brevity is perfect.
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