Paul Bowles @ 100

Paul Bowles was born today, 30 December, 100 years ago. Composer, poet, novelist, short story & travel memoir writer, translator, Bowles was a core figure of the 20th century nomad — expatriate as they said back then — community. Having settled in Tangier after 1947 he became what the Tunisian writer Albert Memmi called “an immobile nomad.” But few writers have better described the fate of the modern tourist who is not a traveller, and that realm the “ugly American” finds him/herself in psychologically and psychically. Someone should reprint Eric Mottram 1976 little monograph on Bowles, very accurately entitled Staticity and Terror. The novels have stood the test of time, as have the short stories, in the main. I have a soft spot for The Spiders House, maybe his ‘straightest’ novel, and that may be because of a shared admiration for the city of Fès. It is also important to remember that Bowles brought a number of Moroccan writers (from oral or written literary backgrounds) to the attention of a wider world via his translations and support, especially Mohammed Mrabet, Mohammed Choukri and Larbi Layachi .Today in his honor, I’ll listen to some of Bowles’ Pastorelas and concerts (those for two pianos, my favorites). And here is a very early poem of his, written at 17:


When I am here I shall not mind
I shall merely murmur:
If no one comes and sees me here it will be all right

Here it is hard to believe that anything is free
Come let us lapse into freedom
Let all these things become less than dust
Let me not think at all ever
Let these things come close together
Let everything be slow and soft
Let the wind blow over the roof at noon
Let everything be soft here because there is no dust
Let anything except what is coming come
That is the way I always have felt
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2 Responses

  1. Mer´cè Chico Pasqués says:

    Siempre me ha impresionado . Me fascina la pelicula El cielo protector. Un saludo.

  2. El Habib Louai says:

    There is something imperishable about the writings of Paul Bowles . I reread his most known novels and I am amazed, being a Moroccan, to discover how deeply knowledgeable he was in his treatment of themes having to do with Morocco culture. Mohammed Mrabet, Mohammed Choukri and Larbi Layachi could have been under the sweeping wheel of ignorance were it not for Bowles’ attention. Un Thé au Sahara( the Sheltering Sky) was quite a good film.

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