“En todo caso había un solo túnel, oscuro y solitario: el mío. El túnel en que había transcurrido mi infancia, mi juventud, toda mi vida. Y en uno de esos trozos transparentes del muro de piedra yo había visto a esta muchacha y había creído ingenuamente que venia por otro túnel paralelo al mio, cuando en realidad pertenecía al ancho mundo, al mundo sin límite de los que no viven en túneles; y quizá se había acercado por curiosidad a una de mis extrañas ventanas y había entrevisto el espectáculo de mi insalvable soledad, o le había intrigado el lenguaje mudo, la clave de mi cuadro. Y entonces, mientras yo avanzaba siempre por mi pasadizo, ella vivía afuera su vida normal, la vida agitada que llevan esas gentes que viven afuera, esa vida curiosa y absurda en que hay bailes y fiestas y alegría y frivolidad.”
There was only one tunnel, dark and solitary: mine, the tunnel where my childhood, my youth, my whole life had passed. And in one of those clear fragments of the stone wall I had seen this girl and I had naively thought that she was coming through another tunnel parallel to mine, when in reality she belonged to the wide world, the limitless world of those who do not live in tunnels.
— Fragmento de El Túnel de Ernesto Sabato
The Tunnel (El túnel) is a dark, psychological novel written by Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato about a deranged porteño painter, Juan Pablo Castel, and his obsession with a woman. The story’s title refers to the symbol for Castel’s emotional and physical isolation from society, which becomes increasingly apparent as Castel proceeds to tell from his jail cell the series of events that enabled him to murder the only person capable of understanding him. Marked by its existential themes, El Túnel received enthusiastic support from Albert Camus and Graham Greene following its publication in 1948.
The story begins with the main character introducing himself as “the painter who killed María Iribarne” before delving into the circumstances that led to their first encounter. Castel’s obsession begins in the autumn of 1946 when at an exhibition of his work he notices a woman focusing on one particularly subtle detail of his painting “Maternidad” (“Maternity”). He considers this observation deeply significant since it is a detail that he values as the most important aspect of the painting but to which nobody besides him and the woman pay any attention.
Missing out on an opportunity to approach her before she leaves the exhibition, he then spends the next few months obsessing over her, thinking of ways to find her in the immensity of Buenos Aires, and fantasizing about what to say to her.