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Literature / The Tunnel

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The Tunnel is a 1948 existentialist novella by the Argentinian scientist-turned-writer Ernesto Sábato, first of a trilogy consisting of The Tunnel, On Heroes and Tombs and Abbadon the Destructor.

Juan Pablo Castel was once a famous painter, but now he is in jail after murdering the only woman that ever understood him, Maria Iribarne. He will tell you the story, and tell it in the most fair way possible without any justifications of any kind as a sign of hatred for all the critics in the world and because of... well, he just feels like telling it.

Narrated by Castel's ultra insane and rarely to-the-point voice, this little book tells the story of a suffering soul desperately trying to quench his loneliness, only to fail and realize the reality of his perpetual doom.

Not apt for depressive people.


Tropes this work include:

  • Foregone Conclusion: Castel admits killing Maria in the first chapter, the book is about the situations that led to this. Surprisingly, the end is equally traumatic even if (or perhaps because) you know.
  • Genre Blindness: Even if you didn't know the ending because Juan Pablo told you every single freaking thing he does screams of "Woman Murdered by Stalker" headlines. Maria probably knew in the bottom but still...
  • Hikikomori: Castel hardly leaves his place before meeting Maria. This is never shown to be weird, possibly as a reference to society's willingness to forgive weird behaviour in famous artists.
  • Meaningful Title: The Tunnel represents Juan Pablo's eternally lonely existence, which is like a dark tunnel where only he stands. He sometimes sees through windows in the tunnel, and even once sees a fellow traveler in her own tunnel, but the walls will never fall.
  • Stalking Is Love: Maria falls for the Stalker with a Crush. Which leads us to...
  • Stalker with a Crush: Juan Pablo is absolutely insane, instantly fell for Maria in a matter of seconds and then proceed to live forever obsessed with her, eventually killing her out of jealousy.
  • Shout-Out: Castel is partially based on the Spanish painter Oscar Dominguez, who appears in other works by the author. His insanity attacks and physical appearance (which isn't described until his cameo on another book of Sabato) is pretty much Dominguez.

Did we mention yet that True Art Is Angsty?