Paul Bowles: Travels Collected Writings 1950 1993



Past was always better I m not being entirely ironical because by Bowles s standards the past no doubt was better true to local culture even though the Moroccan residents probably had less money less food and worse housingBowles s travel articles aren t limited in topic to Morocco He writes about locales as disparate as Paris Seville Istanbul Algeria Central America Ceylon Sri Lanka Kenya Madeira and Thailand He writes a series of articles about a project he undertook under a grant recording tribal music throughout the mountainous areas of Morocco at a time when the Moroccan government was hoping to stamp out folk music as an indication of non modern backwardness Always Bowles has an eye for the strange an ear for the good story an empathy for the people with whom he speaks a sensitivity to their music and to their livesReading the essays and articles in Travels is as close as most of us will get to obtaining a feel for many various cultures in the world and especially for those cultures as they existed before and a decade or two after World War II And learning about the world s hidden places and cultures from a gifted writer with a clear sense of perception renders them no less intriguing or mysterious Intriguing and mysterious to us as they were even to Bowles himself Journeys With Paul BowlesAfter reading Paul Bowles famous novel The Sheltering Sky I read Let it Come Down and The Spider s House the two novels included with The Sheltering Sky in the Library of America compilation of Bowles novels I was interested in Bowles and thus turned to this volume Travels Collected Writings 2010 which offers a broader view of the author from that offered by the novels Bowles 1910 1999 an American born in ueens was an outsider and a wanderer through his long life As a young man he spent time in Europe and north Africa among other places In the middle of a career as a composer in New York City Bowles moved to Tangier in 1947 and spent the rest of his life as an expatriate He also changed his career activities to concentrate on writing than on musical compositionThe 39 travel essays in this volume show a different touch from Bowles novels Written over a 40 year period most of the essays were commissioned by magazines of the time including Holiday The Nation The American Mercury Gentleman s uarterly and Bowles wrote some of the essays as introductions to books by other writers while two of the essays are published in this collection for the first time The writing is accessible and entertaining Several of the essays are much extended that would be possible in most magazine writing of todayThe essays show a great deal of immediacy and a sharp power of description The tone of the pieces is often informal and collouial with Bowles inviting his readers along as guests The essays include substantial historical background for places many readers will find exotic and strange Several essays deal with the same place at different times and slightly different locales offering varying perspectives The essays are largely arranged in the order in which they were written The first two essays however describe Bowles early adventures as a young man in his late teens and early 20 s struggling to find his way with little money These essays present a lively picture of bohemian artistic life in the Paris between the World WarsParis is not the focus of the volume The reader of this book will travel with Bowles to the Sahara desert Spain Ceylon Turkey Kenya Thailand and India Most of all the reader will travel with Bowles to his beloved Morocco The Moroccan journeys go to places of romance in the reader s imagination including Tangier Marrakesh Casablanca and Fez There are also essays on rural life in the Moroccan hills In the late 1950s Bowles traveled over 25000 miles in Morocco to record and preserve the dying traditions of Moroccan folk music Several extended essays in this book document his efforts The book covers ancient walled cities with mysterious alleys winding streets native cafes and lively bazaars Bowles teaches the reader a great deal about the interaction between the local populations and the Europeans and he regrets the impending change to modernity He is unapologetic about his use of if hashish and other substances In addition to towns and cities he portrays beaches large deserts mountains and oceans He tells storiesWhile most of the essays are place specific Bowles discusses his view of travel writing in some of the pieces including The Challenge to Identity first published in 1958 in The Nation Bowles writesThe subject matter of the best travel books is the conflict between writer and place It is not important which of them carries the day so long as the struggle is faithfully recorded The writer must make the decision to adhere to a scrupulous honesty in reporting Any conscious distortion is euivalent to cheating at solitaire the purpose of the game is nullified The account must be as near the truth as he can get and it seems to me the easiest way to achieve that is to aim for precision in describing his own reactions A reader can get an idea of what a place is really like only if he nows what its effects were upon someone of whose character he has some idea of whose preferences he is aware Thus it seems essential that the writer place a certain insistence upon the objective presentation of his own personality it provides an interpretative gauge with which the reader can measure for himself the relative importance of each detail like the scale of miles in the corner of a mapBowles admirably ca. The cold water artists’ flats of Paris’s Left Bank or the sun worshipping eccentrics of Tangier Paul Bowles imbues every piece with a deep intelligence and the acute perspective of his rich experience of the world Woven throughout are photographs fr.

I can say that Paul Bowles is one of my favorite writers and now having read Travels Collected Writings 1950 1993 2010 I have finished reading all of his available writings This collection is mostly made up of pieces that were collected earlier in Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue 1963 I think if there were that many pieces in a collection by another writer I might have not bothered with the collection or skipped those pieces But I decided to re read them and savor the familiarity and evocative scenes described Bowles who has a gift of bringing the atmosphere of a place to life for example the Sahara Desert in Baptism of Solitude as well as the people that populate those specific places like in Mustapha and his Friends There are two excellent pieces about his travels into countryside and mountains of Morocco to record the traditional music there that is some of his best writing in The Route to Tassemit and The Rif to Music In those pieces in particular he brings Moro A book to savor At times dreamlike contemplative lovely with understated humor Much less judgmental than Paul Theroux whose writing I love but whose opinions I find abrasive and at times offensive Valuable for its mid 20th century descriptions of the destinations travel writers still visit and write about today Lovers of literary travel writing should own this FROM MY BLOG We often travel to seek the strange and the mysterious which sometimes means simply seeing how other people in other cultures live their lives American writer and musician Paul Bowles spent his life traveling and observing other peoples His fiction evokes the strange the mysterious and even the frightening and bizarreHis best nown novel The Sheltering Sky follows an American couple into the Sahara where they find than they sought in writing that casts an almost hypnotic spell on the reader Bowles s best Silver Stirrups (Saddle Club, known short story perhaps The Delicate Prey also set deep in the Sahara is a horrifying tale of crime and punishment among residents of the desert desert dwellers whose ideas of justice are untempered by mercyI was introduced to Bowles through his fiction his stories of the Sahara and its effects on those who lived in or visited the life of the desert I had also heard stories of Bowles s private life stories of a man who spent most of his life as an expatriate in Tangier who lived for years in an interesting marriage to a lesbian writer and who was a friend and confidante of many American writers including members of the Beat generationI was unprepared for the writing to which he evidently devoted much of his time travel writing for mainstream publications His book Travels contains some 39 essays most of them published in the late lamented Holiday magazine during the 1950s and 60s a magazine that was to travel writing what the New Yorker is to general literature His writing presents scenes and vignettes almost as strange as those in his fiction but in a first person narrative form that is far accessible to the uninitiated first time Bowles readerTangier was his preferred residence and Morocco his preferred country and some of the best essays describe experiences in Moroccan cities in the mountain areas the Rif the Atlas and in the bleak but always surprising expanses of the Sahara Bowles first moved to Tangier in the early 1930s as a youth Tangier for many years an international city under French and Spanish administration has no major tourist sites he acknowledges but in a 1958 article he found much to loveIn Europe it seems to me the past is largely fictitious to be aware of it one must have previousnowledge of it In Tangier the past is a physical reality as perceptible as sunlight He saw both the city and the country evolve from a primitive residence of Berbers and Arabs governed by French and Spanish colonial powers to a far modern and independent nation Bowles who died in 1999 was no sympathizer with colonial rule He was even less perhaps a sympathizer with the modernizing read Europeanizing and Americanizing ferver of Moroccan nationalist leaders Where Morocco s rulers saw progress Bowles saw foundering attempts at globalization the gradual replacement of local crafts and foods with mass produced imported goods and servicesThe last essays in this book were written in the early 1990s I m not sure to what extent Bowles s fears for the future have come true although McDonaldization continues unabated in many parts of the world In an article written in 1984 he wrote about the medieval medina in FezYet with the increasing poverty in the region the city clearly cannot continue much longer in its present form A house which formerly sheltered one family now contains ten or twelve families living it goes without saying in unimaginable sualor The ancient dwellings are falling rapidly into disrepair And so at last it is the people from outside the walls who have taken over the city and their conuest a natural and inevitable process spells its doom That Fez should still be there today unchanged in its outward form is the surprising phenomenonI visited Fez for my first and so far only visit in 2012 I have nothing earlier in my own experience with which to compare it All I can say is that the city when I visited it was magical magical and apparently non ersatz thriving and packed with local manufacturing eg leather tanning and shops and local residents It also had its share of tourists of course I would love to find a place to stay overnight within the medina on a future visit So the death and decay of Morocco is all relative I suppose The. In than forty essays and articles that range from Paris to Ceylon Thailand to Kenya and of course Morocco the great twen tieth century American writer encapsulates his long and full life and sheds light on his brilliant fiction Whether he’s recalling.

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Rries out his stated purpose for travel writing in the essays collected in this volumeOne of the essays I most enjoyed was Yallah which Bowles wrote as an introduction to a book of photographs of the Sahara Desert The essay captures a great deal of that strange place The final essay Paul Bowles his Life is less the story of a journey that an autobiography written in broken poetic lines This previously unpublished work offers an introduction to Bowles life thinking and wanderingsI am not likely to visit many of the places that Bowles describes or accurately the successors to these places in the 21st Century This book engaged me and put me in touch with the places and people it describes which is the character of good writing in many genres It is valuable to have Bowles travel essays collected and preserved in a single volume Readers with an interest in Bowles exotic places or simply good writing will enjoy this collectionRobin Friedman I liked the travel writing but I think enjoyed even his observations of African countries during their anti colonial period and how the political changes were shaping them Favorite uoteIf I am faced with the decision of choosing between visiting a circus and a cathedral a caf and a public monument or a fiesta and a museum I m afraid I shall normally take the circus the caf and the fiesta trusting to luck that I shall manage to see the others laterHis point is that the people currently living in a place make up its culture not the famous monuments or relics of its past I like this way of thinking about travel I was writing up on the history of Holiday magazine and saw Paul Bowles mentioned a few times I ordered this book up from the library in case there was some information about Holiday in this collection of Bowles s travel writing which included a number of articles from the magazine His writing is delicious He had one of those adventurous expat lives that most people dream about and he describes places like Morroco Tangiers Ceylon ThailandIn writing on travel literature Bowles wrote What is a travel book For me it is the story of what happened to one person in a particular place and nothing than that it does not contain a hotel and highway information lists of useful phrases statistics or hints as to what Different Class kind of clothing is needed by the intending visitor It may be that such books form a category which is doomed to extinction I hope not because there is nothing I enjoy than reading an accurate account by an intelligent writer of what happened to him away from home Bonus points also that one of my favorite curmudgeonly travel writers Paul Theroux wrote the Introduction Here he is on meeting three Thai Buddhist monks the leader of which remarked on Bowles s roomHe glanced up at me and went on talking Your room is beautiful We are not accustomed to such luxury His voice was flat he was trying to conceal his disapproval The three conferred briefly in undertones My friends say they have never seen such a luxurious room he reported watching me closely through his steel rimmed spectacles to see my reaction I failed to hear Here is Bowles on cultureIf I am faced with the decision of choosing between visiting a circus and a cathedral a cafe or a public monument or a fiesta or a museum I m afraid I shall normally take the circus the cafe and the fiesta trusting to luck that I shall manage to see the others later I suppose I m simply not what today is called culture minded Perhaps that is because to me the culture of a land at any given moment is the people who live in it and the lives they lead in it not the possessions they have inherited from those who came before What is a travel book For me it is the story of what happened to one person in a particular place and nothing than that it does not contain hotel and highway information lists of useful phrases statistics or hints as to whatind of clothing is needed by the intending visitor It may be that such books form a category which is doomed to extinction I hope not because there is nothing I enjoy than reading an accurate account by an intelligent writer of what happened to him away from home THE SUBJECT MATTER of the best travel books is the conflict between writer and place It is not important which of them carries the day so long as the struggle is faithfully recorded Paul Bowles has an eye for details and a way with words that much is certain In this sad age of travel restrictions it provided me the best possible vehicle for unrestricted space and time travel The journey was great I love this book it was written at a time when people made travels not tourism I hope it will enchant everyone as it did me and perhaps even encourage some to visit new places with a different state of mind In Travels Paul Bowles s writings all penned between 1950 and 1993 actively document his revelations and uniue understandings of art culture and the world through Ceylon Spain India France and beyond to North Africa where his writings about Tangier give gleaming evidence to his passion for the place where he spent the rest of his life He writes at length on the characters that seasoned his experiences as well as the nature that arrested his consciousness from the sky of the Sahara compared to which all other skies seem faint hearted efforts Baptism of Solitude 1953 to a peasant in Madeira about whom Bowles wrote There was a definite difference between this face and the ind of faces I was used to seeing It was as if this one had been made by hand the others mass produced Madeira 1960read the full review at my blo. Om the renowned author’s private archive which place him his wife the writer Jane Bowles and their many friends and compatriots in the landscapes his essays bring so vividly to lifeWith an introduction by Paul Theroux and a chronology by Daniel Halper.

Free online Travels Collected Writings 1950 1993 – 10a.us

Jane Bowles He moved to Tangiers permanently in 1947 with Auer following him there in 1948 There they became fixtures of the American and European expatriate scene their visitors including Truman Capote Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal Bowles continued to live in Tangiers after the death of his wife in 1973Bowles died of heart failure in Tangier on November 18 1999 His ashes were interred near the graves of his parents and grandparents in Lakemont New York