The Tunnel

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The narrator of The Tunnel is a distinguished man in his fifties, William Frederick Kohler, a professor at a Midwestern university. His principal subject, the Third Reich. He has just completed his massive magnum opus, Guilt and Innocence in Hitler's Germany. All that remains to write is an introduction. Kohler sits down to write a self-congratulatory text and finds himself unaccountably blocked. He begins instead to write an entirely other book, another history - that of the historian himself. What he writes is the complete opposite of his clearly argued, causally determined history of the Reich. It is as subjective and private as history is objective and public, as apparently shapeless and stagnant as history is ordered and directive. It is chaotic, obscure, full of lies and disguises, gaps and repetitions. Indeed, his Introduction is so personal that he fears his wife will find it, and he slides the manuscript between pages of his book, where he knows it will not be found. At the same time, Kohler begins digging a tunnel out from the basement of his house. The tunnel comes to mirror Kohler's digging into his life - his feelings, his past, his own few loves and many hatreds. The writing, the digging, the reader's reading, continue together, creating a hole driven into both language and the past, getting closer to and fleeing from the secrets of the novel's fundamental theme - the fascism of the heart.

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User Review  - stillatim - LibraryThing

Some attempts to explain William Gass: i) I put him in the same category as Burton, Shakespeare and Joyce. If you disagree now, wait until I'm done, when you'll disagree even more: these four men ... Read full review

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User Review  - DavidCLDriedger - LibraryThing

Amazing. It takes the arc of modern history and the tip of the holocaust to see if we can still offer context and meaning to the traumas of our childhood. Read full review

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About the author (1995)

William Howard Gass was born in Fargo, North Dakota on July 30, 1924. During World War II, he served as an ensign in the Navy. He received an A.B. in philosophy from Kenyon College in 1947 and a PhD in philosophy from Cornell University in 1954. He taught at several universities including The College of Wooster, Purdue University, and Washington University in St. Louis. He wrote novels, collections of short stories and novellas, and collections of criticism. His novels included Omensetter's Luck, Middle C, and The Tunnel, which received the American Book Award. His other works of fiction included In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, Willie Master's Lonesome Wife, Cartesian Sonata and Other Novellas, and Eyes: Novellas and Stories. His collections of criticism included Tests of Time; A Temple of Texts, which won the 2007 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism; and Habitations of the Word and Finding a Form, which both won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. His essay collections included Fiction and the Figures of Life, The World Within the Word, and Reading Rilke. He died from congestive heart failure on December 6, 2017 at the age of 93.

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