Travels: Collected Writings, 1950-93 – Paul Bowles

“Whether or not, as some people believe, the American author Paul Bowles was one of the greatest writers of the late 20th century, he was certainly one of that century’s most restless travellers. Merely to read about his comings and goings is enough to induce exhaustion. Bowles’s life involved not only friendships and encounters with what seems at times like most of the great cultural figures of his day, but near-continual changes of home, and lengthy and repeated stays in places often oceans apart from the Tangier with which he is perennially associated. The prodigious energy needed to maintain such a nomadic existence was reflected in a massive creative output that extended into all kinds of writing, as well as into musical composition. However, despite famously conveying in his Sahara-based novel The Sheltering Sky the psychologically dislocating effects of the exotic and unfamiliar, his lifetime of journeys did not produce a single major work of travel literature. Bowles’s gifts as a travel writer are to be judged almost entirely on his travel journalism, a large selection of which has now been put together by his devotee Mark Ellingham, whose Rough Guide to Morocco was praised by Bowles for its accurate appraisal of Tangier as a town ‘with an enduring capacity for craziness’. This anthology, with its excellent introduction by Paul Theroux and useful biographical outline, might have benefited from greater selectiveness and from being arranged by place rather than chronologically. Nonetheless it is a volume which will surely be a revelation to those who are either discovering Bowles for the first time, or else have hitherto dismissed him purely as a romantic American escaping from the reality of the modern world. Bowles was a writer of brilliant descriptive powers, and almost unequalled in his evocation of the Sahara, with its mesmerising vault of sky, and induction of a feeling of solitude in which ‘nothing is left but your own breathing and the sound of your heart beating’. But Bowles is also revealed as a traveller open to all types of experience. …”
The World of Tangier – Paul Bowles (1958)
Journey Through Morocco – Paul Bowles (1963)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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1 Response to Travels: Collected Writings, 1950-93 – Paul Bowles

  1. I read The Sheltering Sky decades ago but still recall that reading it left a physical impression on me-if that makes sense.


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