domingo, 27 de noviembre de 2022

Paul Bowles / The Outsider

Paul Bowles

(1910 - 1999)

Paul Bowles was born in New York in 1910. When he was 17, the Paris based avant-garde magazine transition published some of his poems. He went to Paris where he met Gertrude Stein, who advised him to go to Morocco. Bowles altered his plans and went to Tangier. "As a result of this arbitrary action my life was permanently altered, he recalled."

Bowles studied composition with Aaron Copeland in New York and Berlin, and with Virgil Thomson in Paris. His opera, "The Wind Remains," was performed in New York in 1943, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. During the thirties and forties, Bowles composed theatre music for Broadway plays, including Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.

In 1938 he married the writer Jane Auer. They lived in Mexico and New York, where they shared a house with W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten. After World War II, he and Jane settled in Tangier, Morocco. Jane Bowles died in 1973. Bowles combined various talents: novelist, translator, poet, composer and short story writer. While other writers esteemed his work he has become something of a cult figure and has not received wider public attention.

Paul Bowles's novels include The Sheltering Sky [1960], Let It Come Down [1962], and The Spider's House [1965]. His short story collections include The Delicate Prey and Other Stories [1960], Things Gone and Things Still Here [1977], A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard [1972], Three Tales [1975], The Time of Friendship [1975], The Collected Stories of Paul Bowles [1976], Unwelcome Words [1988], and A Thousand Days of Mohktar [1989]. He has written several books about Morocco, travel essays, journals, poems, and translated works by several Moroccan writers.

The dilemma of the outsider in an alien society is a recurrent theme of Bowles' writings. Paul Gray, in his review of Collected Stories, wrote in Time magazine that, "he writes from a sensibility that is foreign or at least remote from the American ordinary - a sensibility that identifies with nature, natural forces and spirit of place. The essential Bowles plot charts a clash between two cultures, one usually Western and the other primitive. Visitors come to feast on the picturesque and take one step off the beaten path. Sometimes their fate is terrible."

Gore Vidal has commented that Bowles' stories are "immediately recognized as being unlike anything else in our literature. . .as a short story, Paul Bowles has had few equals in the second half of the twentieth century." Paul Bowles continued to live in Morocco until his death in 1999.

In selecting the 1991 winner, the Rea Award Jurors, Joel Conarroe, Francine du Plessix Gray and Joyce Carol Oates gave the following citation:

"Paul Bowles is a storyteller of the utmost purity and integrity. He writes of a world before God became man; a world in which men and women in extremis are seen as components in a larger, more elemental drama. His prose is crystalline and his voice unique. Among American masters of the short story, Paul Bowles is sui generis." 

Paul Bowles


In 1985 he published his translated version of one short story "The Circular Ruins" of Jorge Luis Borges which was published in a book of sixteen story translations (all by Bowles) called "She Woke Me Up So I Killed Her". This Borges story had already been translated and published by the three main Borges translators: Anthony Kerrigan, Anthony Bonner and James E. Irby and it is interesting to note the difference of styles amongst these four different translations. Bowles's version is in typical Bowles prose style and is readily distinguishable from the other three, which have a more conservative idiomatic form of translation.

Paul Bowles: Profile

Barry Miles celebrates the surreal, ecstatic life of the writer 
and composer Paul Bowles, a friend of Gertrude Stein, 
Orson Welles and Gertrude Stein
By Barry Miles
6:30AM BST 02 Jul 2010

Paul Bowles’s life is the story of 20th-century American modernism. He knew everyone from Gertrude Stein and Marcel Duchamp to Francis Bacon and James Baldwin; pre-war expatriates in New York, Paris and Berlin and the post-war Beat Generation in Tangier. His life divides into two distinct halves: 1910 until 1947, during which he was primarily a composer, writing music for Broadway plays for Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, William Saroyan and other incidental music, travelling extensively and engaging in a frenetic social life with a largely gay group of writers and composers. And from 1947 until his death in 1999, when he settled in Tangier and concentrated on writing four full-length novels and many collections of short stories, poems and translations. Travels: Collected Writings, 1950-93 has just been published in his centenary year.

Born on December 30 1910, Paul Frederic Bowles grew up in Jamaica, Long Island. His upbringing was very strict; he was not allowed to speak to or play with other children, and instead retreated into his own world of drawing and writing: he could read at the age of two and wrote his first two-page story when he was three. His mother taught him how to empty his mind in order to enter a blank state. This was how she shut out the outside world and her authoritarian husband and how Bowles developed his internal life.

Jane Bowles and Paul
New York, 1944

The emotional distance Bowles set up between himself and his parents persisted throughout his life in his relations with other people. Reserve, dissociation and isolation are the underlying subjects of most of his work. His characters are frequently detached, unable to express their emotions or connect with other people. Like Bowles, they are passive, their actions determined by fate.

By the time he was nine years old Bowles had written a number of small piano pieces. He had his own column in the school magazine, the Oracle, and between 1926 and 1928 he published more than 40 pieces there, including several translations from French. He was very attracted to Modernism and Surrealism and practised automatic writing. He sent the results to Transition, which published several of his poems. He was just 17 years old and already sharing pages with James Joyce, Stein and André Breton.

In 1929, Aaron Copland became his music teacher. Copland was notorious for seducing his young male students. They became lovers and Bowles travelled with him to Berlin where Christopher Isherwood used his name for Sally Bowles in Goodbye to Berlin, which later becameCabaret. They visited Stein who said that he and Copland should go to Tangier, which they did.

Bowles married the writer Jane Auer in 1938 and they travelled in Central America and France. Friends were puzzled by the match because although Paul had taken both male and female lovers, Jane had been exclusively lesbian all her life. Paul and Jane were great friends, always joking and chattering together. However, they usually chose sexual partners with whom little communication was possible: Jane’s longest relationship was with Cherifa, a woman from the market in Tangier who spoke only Moghrebi, and Paul’s post-war lovers were illiterate Arab boys.

After travels in Central America, Bowles translated Sartre’s No Exit, the first of a long series of translations from French, Spanish and Moghrebi, which continued for the rest of his life. He became the music critic for the New York Herald Tribune and began publishing short stories.

Paul was diffident and removed in the extreme, often appearing callous towards his wife. Jane, a spoiled rich girl who never had to work, was forever causing scenes and having tantrums, and fretting over her work, which came very slowly. Her novel Two Serious Ladies, published in 1943, inspired Bowles to also write a novel.

The memory of Tangier haunted him. In 1947, with an advance for a novel, “I got on a Fifth Avenue bus one day to go uptown. By the time we had arrived at Madison Square I knew what would be in the novel and what I would call it… It would take place in the Sahara, where there was only the sky, and so it would be The Sheltering Sky.” By the time he reached midtown, he had made all the important decisions about this, his most celebrated book. Bernardo Bertolucci’s Bafta award-winning film ofThe Sheltering Sky was released in 1989, and featured Bowles himself as the narrator.

He left for Morocco, travelling with his boyfriend. Jane followed seven months later with her girlfriend. In Tangier they had separate apartments in the same building. Paul liked majoun, a form of hashish candy, and kif, and stayed up late, stoned, smoking with friends. Jane could not stand any form of cannabis, but was a heavy drinker; the probable cause of her stroke in 1957. When faced with the tricky prospect of describing the death of his protagonist, as a confirmed Surrealist, Bowles handed the problem over to his subconscious and took a large amount of majoun: “The majoun provided a solution totally unlike whatever I should have found without it.”

Bowles’s dedication to his third book, The Delicate Prey, read: “For my mother, who first read me the stories of Poe.” There is a sense of dread in his writing, that something terrible is about to happen, there is no safety anywhere, no security, each of us is essentially alone. Tennessee Williams, visiting Tangier at a time of political unrest, said: “It wasn’t the Arabs I was afraid of while I was in Tangier, it was Paul Bowles, whose chilling stories filled me with horror.”

Most of his characters were thinly veiled portraits. The Arab boy in The Spider’s House is based on Ahmed Yacoubi, Bowles's lover for a decade. Bowles: “As much as I was capable of loving anyone, I loved Yacoubi with an intense passion heretofore unknown to me. With Yacoubi, it was never ‘just sex’.” What constituted “just sex” for Bowles he never made clear, but he did speak of his love of being beaten. At school he goaded his fellow pupils into fighting with him. He always took punishment “stoically and ecstatically”. This became a feature of his adult relationships: “Being beaten,” he wrote to a friend, “[is] a vice. But how enjoyable. How exquisite. Biding myself with the pain, all the more enjoyable than misbehaving with some girl or man.”

Based largely on the publication of A Hundred Camels in the Courtyardand M’Hashish, Bowles found that his writing on the use of kif and majoun had made him a cult figure in the Sixties counter-culture. Hippies turned up at his door.

On May 4 1973, Jane Bowles died after years of ill health and rumours spread around Tangier that her lover Cherifa had poisoned her. Bowles himself was criticised for not getting better medical advice. He had been very passive, simply doing what the doctor advised without getting other medical opinions.

His fame grew. The Rolling Stones visited and he became an essential stop on the tour of north Africa. Film crews arrived from Sweden and France, Germany and Holland – as well as from the United States and Britain. Then in 1997 his health began to fail. He died following a heart attack on November 18 1999.

Paul Bowles,1975
Photo by Dora Carringdon



1931 – Sonata for Oboe and Clarinet
1936 – Horse Eats Hat, play
1936 – Who Fights This Battle, play
1937 – Doctor Faustus, play
1937 – Yankee Clipper, ballet
1938 – Music for a Farce
1938 – Too Much Johnson, play
1938 – Huapango – Cafe Sin Nombre – Huapango-El Sol, Latin American folk
1939 – Denmark Vesey, opera
1939 – My Heart's in the Highlands, play
1940 – Loves Old Sweet Song, play
1940 – Twelfth Night, play
1941 – Liberty Jones, play
1941 – Watch on the Rhine, play
1941 – Love Like Wildfire, play
1941 – Pastorela, ballet
1942 – In Another Five Years Or So, opera
1943 – South Pacific, play
1943 – Sonata for Flute and Piano and Two Mexican Dances
1943 – 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, play 
1944 – The Glass Managerie, play
1944 – Jacobowsky and the Colonel, play
1944 – Sentimental Colloquy, ballet
1945 – Ondine, play
1945 – Three, words by Tennessee Williams
1945 – Three Pastoral Songs
1946 – Night Without Sleep, words by Charles Henri Ford
1946 – Cyrano de Bergerac, play
1946 – The Dancer, play
1946 – Land's End, play
1946 – On Whitman Avenue, play
1946 – Twilight Bar, play
1946 – Blue Mountain Ballads [Heavenly Grass, Lonesome Man, Cabin, Sugar in the Cane ], words by Tennessee Williams, music by Paul Bowles.
1946 – Concerto for Two Pianos
1947 – Sonata for Two Pianos
1947 – Pastorela: First Suite, a ballet/opera in one act
1947 – The Glass Menagerie, words by Tennessee Williams, two songs by Bowles
1948 – Concerto for Two Pianos, Winds and Percussion
1948 – Summer and Smoke, play 
1949 – Night Waltz
1953 – A Picnic Cantata
1953 – In the Summer House, play
1955 – Yerma, opera
1958 – Edwin Booth, play
1959 – Sweet Bird of Youth, play
1962 – The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, play
1966 – Oedipus (Sophocles), play
1967 – The Garden, play
1969 – The Bacchae(Euripides), play
1976 - Cross Country
1978 – Orestes, play
1978 – Caligula (Camus), play
1984 – Camp Cataract, play
1984 – A Quarreling Pair, play
1992 – Hippolytos, play
1992 – Black Star at the Point of Darkness
1993 – Salome, play


1949 – The Sheltering Sky
1952 – Let It Come Down
1955 – The Spider's House
1966 – Up Above the World
1991 – Too Far From Home (novella)
1992 – Too Far From Home (with Miquel Barceló: 28 watercolors)
1994 – Too Far From Home (with Maguerite McBey)
Short stories (collections)
1950 – A Little Stone
1950 – The Delicate Prey and Other Stories
1959 – The Hours after Noon
1962 – A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard
1967 – The Time of Friendship
1968 – Pages from Cold Point and Other Stories
1975 – Three Tales
1977 – Things Gone & Things Still Here
1979 – Collected Stories, 1939–1976
1981 – In the Red Room
1982 – Points in Time
1985 – Midnight Mass
1988 – Unwelcome Words: Seven Stories
1988 – A Distant Episode
1988 – Call at Corazon
1989 – A Thousand Days for Mokhtar
1995 – The Time of Friendship Paul Bowles & Vittorio Santoro
1933 – Two Poems
1968 – Scenes
1972 – The Thicket of Spring
1981 – Next to Nothing: Collected Poems, 1926–1977
1997 – No Eye Looked Out from Any Crevice


1946 – No Exit, by Jean-Paul Sartre
1952 – The Lost Trail of the Sahara, by Guy Frison-Roche
1964 – A Life Full Of Holes, by Driss Ben Hamed Charhadi (Larbi Layachi)
1967 – Love With A Few Hairs, by Mohammed Mrabet
1969 – The Lemon, by Mohammed Mrabet
1969 – M'Hashish, by Mohammed Mrabet
1973 – For Bread Alone, by Mohamed Choukri
1973 – Jean Genet in Tangier, by Mohamed Choukri
1974 – The Boy Who Set the Fire, by Mohammed Mrabet
1975 – Hadidan Aharam, by Mohammed Mrabet
1975 – The Oblivion Seekers, by Isabelle Eberhardt
1976 – Look & Move On, by Mohammed Mrabet
1976 – Harmless Poisons, Blameless Sins, by Mohammed Mrabet
1977 – The Big Mirror, by Mohammed Mrabet
1979 – Tennessee Williams in Tangier, by Mohamed Choukri
1979 – Five Eyes, by Abdeslam Boulaich, "Sheheriar and Sheherazade" Mohamed Choukri, "The Half Brothers" Larbi Layachi,
"The Lute" Mohammed Mrabet, and "The Night Before Thinking" Ahmed Yacoubi
1980 – The Beach Café & The Voice, by Mohammed Mrabet
1982 – The Path Doubles Back, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
1983 – The Chest, by Mohammed Mrabet
1983 – Allal, by Pociao
1984 – The River Bed, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, (a short story)
1985 – She Woke Me Up So I Killed Her, [16 authors' short stories from various languages]
1986 – Marriage With Papers, by Mohammed Mrabet
1986 – Paul Bowles: Translations from the Moghrebi, by various authors
1988 – The Beggar's Knife, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
1989 – Dust on Her Tongue, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
1990 – The Storyteller and the Fisherman, CD by Mohammed Mrabet
1991 – The Pelcari Project, by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
1991 – Tanger: Vues Choisies", by Jellel Gasteli
1992 – Chocolate Creams and Dollars, by various authors
2004 – Collected Stories, by Mohammed Mrabet


1957 – Yallah, text by Paul Bowles, photos by Peter W. Haeberlin (travel)
1963 – Their Heads are Green and Their Hands Are Blue (travel)
1972 – Without stopping (autobiography)
1990 – Two Years Beside The Strait (autobiography)
1991 – Days: Tangier Journal (autobiography)
1993 – 17, Quai Voltaire (autobiography of Paris, 1931,1932)
1994 – Photographs – "How Could I Send a Picture into the Desert?" (Paul Bowles & Simon Bischoff)
1995 – In Touch – The Letters of Paul Bowles (edited by Jeffrey Miller)


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