The Tunnel, By Ernesto Sábato

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The Independent Culture

In the year of its author's 100th birthday, an Argentinian classic joins Penguin's modern hall of fame. Published in 1948, this brief, fierce breakthrough novel by a writer who trained as a physicist belongs among the existential landmarks of postwar fiction.

Castel the painter has murdered Maria: the woman he loved, who alone understood him. From his cell, driven by "this damned compulsion to justify" his acts, he recalls their affair and the tensions that exploded in tragedy.

Albert Camus and Graham Greene both acclaimed El Tunél. New readers of Margaret Sayers Peden's knife-sharp translation will see why, as Sábato sets his anti-hero's dive into a "black chasm" against the metropolitan solitude of Buenos Aires.