The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

Argentian fiction

Original title –El túnel

Translator – Margaret Sayers Peden

Source – personal copy

I was kindly sent this a few years ago by Annabelle of the blog Annabookbel here review is here . I had left this on my shelves to long Sabato is a writer I had wanted to try for a while, I ‘m always wanting to find older writers from the countries I have a lot of reviews for to add depth to the reviews so everything isn’t shiny and new and I could add depth. Sabato is a little like the well known English novelist as he was both a scientist and a writer the two cultures as Snow called them. He had a PHd in physics but at the same time he was talking in the evening to Surrealist writers and starting his own writing life. This was his debut novel and was considered a fine example of Existentialism at the time it was written has got good reviews from Camus.

In the annual spring art show I had exhibited a painting entitled Motherhood. It was painted in the style typical of many of my earlier works: as the critics say in their unbearable jargon, it was solid, soundly architectural. In short, it has all the qualties those charlatans always saw in my canvases, including a “profoundly cerbal je ne sais quoi.” In the upper left-hand corner of the canvas  was a remote cene framed in a tiny window : an empty beach and a solitary woman staring at the sea. She was starring into the distance as if expecting something, perhaps some faintand faraway summons. In my mind that scene suggested the most wistful and absolute loneliness.

The detail Maria saw in his painting Motherhood that lead him to follow her.


The book is the story of a Painter Juan Pablo Castel he is now writing his account of what lead him to Murder. The woman he killed Maria Irbane he became obsessed with. The story starts when he has an Exhibition and finds a woman looking closely at what is one of his favorite paintings “Motherhood” it’s not the fact she is looking at the picture but at one detail he put in the painting that he felt no one would notice but she had. So when she leaves the exhibition he decides on impulse to follow her. This leads him to meet her as he finds where she works and then engineers a meeting. But there is more to Maria than first meets his eye, he figured here for a single woman, in fact, he discovers her husband but also the fact she has kept her own surname and this sends Juan in a paranoid downward cycle. As the ideal image he had of this woman and the real person fall further apart he gets stuck in a tunnel that leads to the events that meant he had to kill her.

Again she stared at me as if studying me, but said nothing.She fixed her eyes on a distant tree

In Profile, she did not remind me of anything. Her face was beautiful, but there was something hard in her expression,Her hair was long and chestnut coloured. Physically, she seemed not much more than twenty-six, but there was something about her that suggest age, something reminicant of a person who had lived a long tim. Not a gray heir or any physical indication but something underfined, surely spiritual.It may have been her expression, but how physical can an expression be ?

Early on in the relationship he spots something not sure what but something in Maria.

This is a classic story of obsession one mans dream view of a woman is shattered. Juan Pablo Castel reminded me of a lot of character I have read in other books that seem stuck on a slippery slope. Blaugast the character fro the Leppin Novel that falls into a world of sex and depravity like Castel is on the path to disaster. Both the main characters in this book are people you wouldn’t like in real life Maria is never fully honest with Juan and is maybe in a perverse marriage. I also wonder if there is more to Catel story we may have clues like the detail in the picture of Motherhood. Had he mother issues and the detail was there to find someone like his mother as they would only notice that detail? There is a real sense of the clinical world Sabato was used to there is a clipped nature to the prose an observant feel to the prose more non-fiction at times than fiction.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Richard
    Jul 06, 2018 @ 20:30:57

    I read Sabato’s On Heroes and Tombs several years ago, Stu, and found parts of it great and parts of it a big overwrought mess! I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this one, though, because it seems to be even more divisive a work among the public at large than the one I read. I think I’d like to give it a go eventually. By the way, I was interested in hearing about your strategy for adding “depth” to your reviews by the inclusion of older writers in your review collection. A nice meta blogging tidbit!


    • winstonsdad
      Jul 06, 2018 @ 20:59:37

      I think this is his easiest book from what I’ve read. Yes as I get near 1000 reviews I feel a few older writers will give more perspective on a particular countries writing over time


  2. JacquiWine
    Jul 07, 2018 @ 06:57:31

    I read this novella a few years ago and found it both intense and chilling. An intriguing account of obsessive love, for sure.


  3. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Jul 07, 2018 @ 13:29:16

    Nice review Stu. I keep considering reading this one and I think I will try to give it a go.


  4. Annabel (AnnaBookBel)
    Jul 07, 2018 @ 21:23:06

    Thanks for the link and glad you found the book interesting.


  5. Trackback: The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato — Winstonsdad’s Blog – LITERARY TRUCE
  6. 1streading
    Jul 16, 2018 @ 10:34:02

    This is one I’ve been looking at since it was released as a Penguin Modern Classic – glad to hear you enjoyed it. I always feel your need to include older books / writers and not always be chasing what is new!


  7. Trackback: That was the month that was july 2018 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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July 2018


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