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Literature / The Tunnel

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The Tunnel (Spanish: El túnel) 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 deep down but still...
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Castel writes and mails Maria a letter he immediately regrets sending. He goes to the post office and tries to recover the letter, but he did not put his return address on the envelope. He suggests to the clerk that they open the letter to prove he wrote it. When she rejects the idea, he blows up at her. He even contemplates sticking around until the end of her shift to insult her some more.
  • 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.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Castel shows instances of this, particularly when he compares Maria with a hooker because the woman's facial expression shows pleasure, which must be faked since she is a sex worker, and that is the same face Maria makes, therefore, she is a whore.
  • 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.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What Maria's husband, Allende means when he calls Castel a fool after the latter reveals he murdered Maria.
  • Rich Bitch: Mimi, one of the guests at the place where Maria is staying. Castel finds her absolutely obnoxious.
  • Stalking is Love: Maria falls for the Stalker with a Crush. Which leads us to...
  • Stalker with a Crush: Juan Pablo is absolutely insane; he 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 Sábato) is pretty much Dominguez.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Throughout their relationship, Castel gives off flashing red flags like announcing to Maria that if she ever betrays him, he will kill her "like a dog" at the same time he is inflicting pain on her.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Everything that happens is told from the point of view of Castel, whose paranoia permeates throughout the book.

Did we mention yet that True Art Is Angsty?