Please note: This audiobook is in Spanish.
©1995 Ernesto Sabato; (P)2003 Recorded Books, LLC
"Admiro su dureza y su intensidad." (Albert Camus)
I didn't so much return to this book as it called me back. Juan Pablo's story, if you can call it that, is not one that you read and enjoy and move on from; it seeps into you. In my case, three years passed between first reading El Túnel and subconscious reminders that caused me to pick it up again.
"I am groping my way in the dark, and I need your help because I know you feel the way I do." Juan Pablo says variations on these words repeatedly to María and to himself, almost like a mantra or a chant. He becomes obsessed with her because he believes they are the same, that only they can understand one another. But in fact they are entirely different and it is the composition of their difference that makes their encounter toxic; María seeks to control everything through passivity and deception, even to herself, while Juan Pablo seeks to achieve freedom from his own tortured soul by being consumed by hers. She drives him deeper into his insanity, but is all the while aware of his madness, even from their very first encounter. She in turn warns him that she destroys everything that comes near her, but he is not deterred; on the contrary. They both seek oblivion, but only María achieves it.
"I had a flash of intuition. Quickly I struck a second match. Just as I had suspected, María was smiling. That is, she was not smiling then, but a tenth of a second earlier she had been smiling. I sometimes have the sensation that someone was watching me, and, turning suddenly and not finding anyone, sensed that the emptiness around me was very recent, that something fleeting had just disappeared, leaving a slight rippled vibrating on the air. It was something like that." From an obsessive compulsion to fill a void - the human condition itself - Juan Pablo enlarges it. Deep inside he knew María was not the answer, and it drove him mad. His search for connection only leaves him more alone.
George Bass's Spanish narration is amazing and perfectly suited to the tone of the book.
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