Translation: The Tunnel, by Ernesto Sabato

Preface to my translation: THE TUNNEL by Argentine Ernesto Sabato is a product of its time- an existential short novel about a painter that murders a woman. It felt at times like Alberto Camus’ THE STRANGER in its intensely nihilistic interior monologues… here is one particularly beautiful passage just when the protagonist is waiting for the woman to appear to kill her.

Chapter 36

It was an interminable wait. I don’t know how much time passed, how much anonymous and universal time, which is indifferent to our feelings, to our destinies, to the formation and collapse of love, to our waiting for death. But for my own internal clock, it was a complicated and immense amount of time full of things and looks back; at times it was strangely calm like still and perpetual seas where Maria and I were face to face contemplating each other statically; and at other times it would return to being a river that would drag us like in a dream to our infancy, and I would see her gallop brazenly on her horse with her hair in the wind and her eyes aglow; and I would see myself in the southern town, in my sickened chambered, with my face plastered to the window, watching the snow with eyes also aglow.

And it was as if both of us had been living in passages or parallel tunnels without knowing that we were walking side by side, like similar souls from similar times, that happen to meet at the end of that passage in front of my painting, as if it were a key for only her- a secret announcement that I had already been there and that the passages had finally united and that the hour of our meeting had finally arrived.

The hour of our meeting had arrived! But… Had our passages really intersected and our souls communicated? What a stupid illusion of mine! No, the passages continued running parallel to each other like before, though now it was a wall that separated us like a glass barrier and I could see Maria like a silent and untouchable figure… No, not even this wall was always like this: sometimes it would return to being a wall of black stone and then I wouldn’t know what happened on the other side. What of her during those anonymous intervals? What strange things were happening on her side? And I even thought that in those moments, her countenance changed and a mocking grin deformed her; and that perhaps there was the laughter of another and that all the history of tunnels was a ridiculous invention or conviction of mine; and that in all likelihood there was only one tunnel, dark and solitary- mine, the tunnel in which my infancy, adolescence and my entire life had transpired.


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