Baptism Of Solitude Paul Bowles Essay Writing

For the English soccer player, see Paul Bowles (footballer).

Paul Frederic Bowles (; December 30, 1910 – November 18, 1999) was an American expatriate composer, author, and translator. He became associated with Tangier, where he settled in 1947 and lived for 52 years to the end of his life.

Following a cultured middle-class upbringing in New York City, during which he displayed a talent for music and writing, Bowles pursued his education at the University of Virginia before making several trips to Paris in the 1930s. He studied music with Aaron Copland, and in New York wrote music for theatrical productions, as well as other compositions. He achieved critical and popular success with his first novel The Sheltering Sky (1949), set in what was known as French North Africa, which he had visited in 1931.

In 1947 Bowles settled in Tangier, at that time in the Tangier International Zone, and his wife Jane Bowles followed in 1948. Except for winters spent in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) during the early 1950s, Tangier was Bowles' home for the remainder of his life. He came to symbolize American immigrants in the city.

Paul Bowles died in 1999 at the age of 88. His ashes are buried near family graves in Lakemont Cemetery, in upstate New York.


1910–1930: Family and education[edit]

Paul Bowles was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York City as the only child of Rena (née Winnewisser) and Claude Dietz Bowles, a dentist. His childhood was materially comfortable, but his father was a cold and domineering parent, opposed to any form of play or entertainment, and feared by both his son and wife. According to family legend, Claude had tried to kill his newborn son by leaving him exposed on a window-ledge during a snowstorm. The story may not be true, but Bowles believed it was and that it encapsulated his relationship with his father.[1] Warmth in his childhood was provided by his mother, who read Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe to him – it was to the latter that he later attributed his own desire to write stories, such as "The Delicate Prey", "A Distant Episode", and "Pages from Cold Point"[2]

Bowles could read at age 3 and was writing stories by age 4. Soon, he wrote surrealistic poetry and music.[3] In 1922, at age 11, he bought his first book of poetry, Arthur Waley's A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems. At age 17, he had a poem, "Spire Song", accepted for publication in transition. This Paris-based literary journal served as a forum for leading proponents of modernism — Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, Paul Éluard, Gertrude Stein and others.[4] Bowles' interest in music also dated from his childhood, when his father bought a phonograph and classical records. (Bowles was interested in jazz, but such records were forbidden by his father.) His family bought a piano, and the young Bowles studied musical theory, singing, and piano. When he was 15, he attended a performance of Stravinsky's The Firebird at Carnegie Hall, which made a profound impression: "Hearing The Firebird made me determined to continue improvising on the piano when my father was out of the house, and to notate my own music with an increasing degree of knowing that I had happened upon a new and exciting mode of expression."[2]

Bowles entered the University of Virginia in 1928, where his interests included T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Prokofiev, Duke Ellington, Gregorian chant, and blues. He also heard music by George Antheil and Henry Cowell. In April 1929, he dropped out without informing his parents, and sailed with a one-way ticket for Paris and no intention of returning – not, he said later, running away, but "running toward something, although I didn't know what at the time."[3] Bowles spent the next months working for the Paris Herald Tribune and developing a friendship with Tristan Tzara.[5] By July, he returned to New York and worked at Duttons Bookshop in Manhattan, where he began work on an unfinished book of fiction, Without Stopping (not to be confused with his later autobiography of the same title).

At the insistence of his parents, Bowles returned to studies at the University of Virginia but left after one semester to return to Paris with Aaron Copland, with whom he had been studying composition in New York.[3] It was during the autumn of 1930 in Paris that Bowles began work on his own first musical composition, the Sonata for Oboe and Clarinet, which he finished the following year. It premiered in New York at the Aeolian Hall on Wigmore Street, 16 December 1931. The entire concert (which also included work by Copland and Virgil Thomson) was "panned" by New York critics.[6] (Bowles' first-known composition was completed earlier in Berlin: an adaptation as piano music of some vocal pieces by Kurt Schwitters.)[7]

1931–1946: France and New York[edit]

In Paris, Bowles became a part of Gertrude Stein's literary and artistic circle. On her advice, he made his first visit to Tangier with Aaron Copland in the summer of 1931.[8] They took a house on the Mountain above Tangier Bay. Bowles later made Morocco his full-time home, and it inspired many of his short stories.[9] From there he returned to Berlin, where he met British writers Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood. (Isherwood was reportedly so taken with him that he named a character Sally Bowles in his novel after him.) The next year, Bowles returned to North Africa, traveling throughout other parts of Morocco, the Sahara, Algeria, and Tunisia.

In 1937, Bowles returned to New York. Over the next decade, he established a solid reputation as a composer, collaborating with Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, and others on music for stage productions, as well as orchestral pieces.

In 1938, he married Jane Auer, an author and playwright. It was an unconventional marriage; each of their intimate relationships were with people of their own sex, but the couple maintained close personal ties with each other.[10] Bowles has frequently been featured in anthologies as a gay writer, but during his life, he always regarded such typecasting as both absurd and irrelevant.[11] After a brief sojourn in France, the couple were prominent among the literary figures of New York throughout the 1940s. Paul Bowles also worked under Virgil Thomson, as a music critic at the New York Herald Tribune. His light opera The Wind Remains, based on a poem by Federico García Lorca, was performed in 1943 with choreography by Merce Cunningham and conducted by Leonard Bernstein. His translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's play Huis Clos ("No Exit"), directed by John Huston, won a Drama Critic's Award in 1943.

In 1945, Bowles began writing prose again, beginning with a few short stories including "A Distant Episode". His wife Jane, he said, was the main influence upon his taking up fiction as an adult, when she published her first novel Two Serious Ladies (1943).[2]

1947–1956: Early years in Tangier[edit]

In 1947, Paul Bowles received a contract for a novel from Doubleday; with the advance, he moved permanently to Tangier. Jane joined him there the next year. Bowles commented:

I was a composer for as long as I've been a writer. I came here because I wanted to write a novel. I had a commission to do it. I was sick of writing music for other people — Joseph Losey, Orson Welles, a whole lot of other people, endless.[12]

Bowles traveled alone into the Algerian Sahara to work on the novel. He later said, "I wrote in bed in hotels in the desert."[13] He drew inspiration from personal experience, noting years later that, "Whatever one writes is in a sense autobiographical, of course. Not factually so, but poetically so."[5] He titled the novel The Sheltering Sky, from a song, "Down Among the Sheltering Palms", which he had heard every summer as a child.[14] It was first published by John Lehmann in England, in September 1949, after Doubleday rejected the manuscript.[15]

Bowles recalled:

I sent it out to Doubleday and they refused it. They said, "We asked for a novel." They didn't consider it a novel. I had to give back my advance. My agent told me later they called the editor on the carpet for having refused the book — only after they saw that it was selling fast. It only had to do with sales. They didn't bother to read it.[16]

A belated first American edition, by New Directions Publishing, appeared the following month.

The plot follows three Americans: Port, his wife Kit, and their friend, Tunner, as they journey through the Algerian desert, culminating in Port's death and Kit's descent into madness. The reviewer for TIME magazine commented that the ends visited upon the two main characters "seem appropriate but by no means tragic", but that "Bowles scores cleanly with his minor characters: Arab pimps and prostitutes, French officers in garrison towns, [and] a stupidly tiresome pair of tourists—mother & son."[17] In The New York Times, playwright and critic Tennessee Williams commented that the book was like a summer thunderstorm, "pulsing with interior flashes of fire".[18] The book quickly rose to the New York Times best-seller list, going through three printings in two months.[19]

In 1950, Bowles published his first collection of short stories. Titled A Little Stone (John Lehmann, London, August 1950), it omitted two of Bowles' most famous short stories, "Pages From Cold Point" and "The Delicate Prey." British critic Cyril Connolly and writer Somerset Maugham had advised him that if they were included in the collection, distribution and/or censorship difficulties might ensue.[19]:22 The American edition by Random House, The Delicate Prey and Other Stories (November 1950), did include these two stories.

In an interview 30 years later, Bowles responded to an observation that almost all of the characters in "The Delicate Prey" were victimized by either physical or psychological violence.[20] He said:

Yes, I suppose. The violence served a therapeutic purpose. It's unsettling to think that at any moment life can flare up into senseless violence. But it can and does, and people need to be ready for it. What you make for others is first of all what you make for yourself. If I’m persuaded that our life is predicated upon violence, that the entire structure of what we call civilization, the scaffolding that we’ve built up over the millennia, can collapse at any moment, then whatever I write is going to be affected by that assumption. The process of life presupposes violence, in the plant world the same as the animal world. But among the animals only man can conceptualize violence. Only man can enjoy the idea of destruction.[21]

He set his second novel, Let It Come Down (John Lehmann, London, February 1952), in North Africa, specifically Tangier. It explored the disintegration of an American (Nelson Dyar) who was unprepared for the encounter with an alien culture. The first American edition by Random House was published later that same month.

Bowles set his third novel, The Spider's House (Random House, New York, November 1955), in Fez, immediately prior to Morocco's gaining independence and sovereignty in 1956) In it, he charted the relationships among three immigrants and a young Moroccan: John Stenham, Alain Moss, Lee Veyron, and Amar.[22] Reviewers noted that the novel marked a departure from Bowles' earlier fiction in that it introduced a contemporary political theme, the conflict between Moroccan nationalism and French colonialism. The UK edition (Macdonald) was published in January 1957.

While Bowles was concentrating on his career as a writer, he composed incidental music for nine plays presented by the American School of Tangier. The Bowles couple became fixtures of the American and European immigrant scene in Tangier. Visitors included Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal. The Beat writers Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Gregory Corso followed in the mid-1950s and early 1960s. In 1951, Bowles was introduced to the Master Musicians of Jajouka, having first heard the musicians when he and Brion Gysin attended a festival, or moussem, at Sidi Kacem. Bowles described his continued association with the Master Musicians of Jajouka and their hereditary leader Bachir Attar in his book, Days: A Tangier Journal.

In 1952, Bowles bought the tiny island of Taprobane, off the coast of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). There, he wrote much of his novel The Spider's House and returned to Tangier in the warmer months. He returned to Sri Lanka most winters.

1957–1973: Moroccan music and translation[edit]

In 1957, Jane Bowles suffered a mild stroke, which marked the beginning of a long and painful decline in her health. Her condition preoccupied Paul Bowles until Jane's death in 1973.

During the late 1950s, Morocco achieved independence. With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and sponsorship from the US Library of Congress, Bowles spent the months of August to September 1959 traveling throughout Morocco with Christopher Wanklyn and Mohammed Larbi, recording traditional Moroccan music.[23] From 1959–1961, Bowles recorded a wide variety of music from the different ethnic groups in Morocco, including the Sephardic Jewish communities of Meknes and Essaouira.[24] The majority of these recordings are being transferred to the digital medium at George Blood Audio and Video in Philadelphia.

During these years, Bowles also worked at translating Moroccan authors and story-tellers, including Mohamed Choukri, Ahmed Yacoubi, Larbi Layachi (under the pseudonym Driss ben Hamed Charhadi), and Mohammed Mrabet.

In the autumn of 1968, invited by friend Oliver Evans, Bowles was a visiting scholar for one semester at the English Department of the San Fernando Valley State College, (now California State University, Northridge. He taught "Advanced Narrative Writing and the Modern European Novel."[25]

In 1970, Bowles and Daniel Halpern started the literary magazine, Antaeus, based in Tangier. It featured many new authors, such as Lee Prosser, as well as more established authors, such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Daniel Halpern, and others. Bowles' work was also published, including his story "Afternoon with Antaeus", some fragments of an unfinished novel by his wife Jane Bowles, along with excerpts from "The Summer House." Antaeus was not published until 1994.

1974–1995: Later years[edit]

After Jane Bowles' death, on 4 May 1973 in Málaga, Spain, Bowles continued to live in Tangier. He wrote regularly and received many visitors to his modest apartment.

In the summers of 1980 and 1982, Bowles conducted writing workshops in Morocco, at the American School of Tangier (under the auspices of the School of Visual Arts in New York). These were considered successful. Among several students who have become successful authors are Rodrigo Rey Rosa,[26] the 2004 Winner of the Miguel Ángel Asturias National Prize in Literature, and Mark Terrill.[27] In addition, Bowles designated Rey Rosa as the literary heir of his and Jane Bowles' estates.[28] In 1982 Bowles published Points in Time, subtitled Tales From Morocco, a collection of stories. Divided into eleven parts, the work consists of untitled story fragments, anecdotes, and travel narratives.[29] These stories are not included in either The Stories of Paul Bowles (Ecco Press) or Collected Stories and Later Writings (The Library of America).[30]

In 1985, Bowles published his translation of Jorge Luis Borges' short story, "The Circular Ruins". It was collected in a book of 16 stories, all translated by Bowles, called She Woke Me Up So I Killed Her. This Borges story had previously been published in translations by the three main Borges translators: Anthony Kerrigan, Anthony Bonner, and James E. Irby. Critics have noted the differences amongst these four translations. Bowles' version is in his typical prose style; it is readily distinguishable from the other three, which have a more conservative idiomatic form of translation.[citation needed]

In 1988, when Bowles was asked in an interview what his social life was like, he replied, "I don't know what a social life is... My social life is restricted to those who serve me and give me meals, and those who want to interview me." When asked in the same interview how he would summarize his achievement, he said, "I've written some books and some music. That's what I've achieved."[31]

Bowles had a cameo appearance at the beginning and end of the film version of The Sheltering Sky (1990), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Bowles' music was overlooked and mostly forgotten for more than a generation, but in the 1990s, a new generation of American musicians and singers became interested in his work again. Art song enthusiasts savor what are described as "charming, witty pieces." [32] In 1994, Bowles was visited and interviewed by writer Paul Theroux, who featured him in his last chapter of his travel book, The Pillars of Hercules.

1995–1999 : Final years[edit]

In 1995, Bowles made his final return to New York, invited to a "Paul Bowles Festival" at Lincoln Center celebrating his music; it was performed by Jonathan Sheffer leading the Eos Orchestra.[33] A related symposium on Bowles' work and interview were held at the New School for Social Research. A Canadian documentary on his life, "Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles" won Best Documentary at the 27th Annual International Emmy Awards in New York City.

Visitors in 1998 reported that Bowles' wit and intellect remained. He continued to welcome visitors to his apartment in Tangier but, on the advice of doctors and friends, limited interviews. One of the last was an interview with Stephen Morison, Jr., a friend teaching at the American School of Tangier. It was featured in the July/August 1999 issue of Poets & Writers magazine. On June 6, 1999, Irene Herrmann, the executrix of the Paul Bowles Music Estate, interviewed him to focus on his musical career; this was published in September 2003.[34]

Bowles died of heart failure on November 18, 1999 at the Italian Hospital in Tangier, aged 88. He had been ill for some time with respiratory problems. His ashes were buried in Lakemont, New York, next to the graves of his parents and grandparents.[citation needed]

Bowles and Tangier[edit]

Paul Bowles lived for 52 of his 88 years in Tangier. He became strongly identified with the city and symbolized American immigrants. Obituary writers always linked his life to his residency there.

When Bowles had first visited Tangier with Aaron Copland in 1931, they were both outsiders to what they perceived as an exotic place of different customs. They were not bound by any local rules, which varied among the many ethnic groups. Tangier was a Moroccan and international city, a longtime trading center, with a population made up of Berber, Arab, Spanish, French and other Europeans, speaking Spanish, French, Berber and Arabic, and professing a variety of religions. Politically it was under the control of a consortium of foreign powers, including the United States. Paul Bowles was entranced by the city's culture. By his return in 1947 the city had of course changed, but he still found it full of strangeness and wonder. In 1955 anti-European riots erupted as the people sought independence. In 1956 the city was returned to full Moroccan control.



Paul Bowles first studied music with Aaron Copland. In the fall of 1931, following an introduction from Copland, he entered the studio of Virgil Thomson.[35]

Bowles had thought of himself first as a poet, having published some verse in his brief time at the University of Virginia in the pages of transition. Unfortunately, the quality of his poetry eluded any of the intellectuals he would later encounter in Paris. Among them was Gertrude Stein, from whom he received the sobriquet, “the manufactured savage,” and who begged him to give up writing poetry.[35][36]

However, his music of the time, demonstrated by a propensity for Ravel-like piano improvisations, charmed both Copland and Thomson, alike.[35][37] In his book, Copland On Music (Doubleday & Company, New York, 1960), Copland remarked:

There are those who refuse to see in Bowles anything more than a dilettante. Bowles himself persists in adopting a militantly non-professional air in relation to all music, including his own.

It is music that comes from a fresh personality, music full of charm and melodic invention, at times surprisingly well made in an instinctive and non-academic fashion.

Personally I much prefer an “amateur” like Bowles to your “well-trained” conservatory product.[37]

For Copland the allure of Bowles’ music would never diminish. In later years he was recorded as having said, “Paul Bowles’ music is always fresh; I’ve never known him to write a dull piece.”[38]

However, the precocity of Bowles’ early musical efforts would later belie a lack of professional training and discipline. Copland had tried in New York to teach him harmony, but had found him to be a stubborn pupil. In Paris Bowles approached Nadia Boulanger for lessons, and Thomson recommended him to Paul Dukas. In the end, he would work with neither.[35]


Apart from irregular consultation with Vittorio Rieti, Bowles never received any formal instruction in music, despite the best efforts of Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson to persuade him otherwise. However, the self-taught composer, with assistance from Thomson, found success in New York as a producer of incidental music for the theatre. He collaborated with the likes of Georges Balanchine, Joseph Losey, Leonard Bernstein, Elia Kazan, Arthur Koestler, José Ferrer, Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, William Saroyan and Tennessee Williams.[35][38][36]

During the Second World War he turned his hand to writing as a reviewer for the New York Herald Tribune, where Thomson then served as music critic. Bowles was well-suited to the work, according to Thomson, “because he wrote clearly and because he had the gift of judgment.”[35]

Following Virgil Thomson’s retirement from his critic’s post in 1954, reminiscing on his wish Paul Bowles had taken over the position, Bowles remarked, “I don’t think I could have handled it, any more than I could have followed a career in composition. I lacked the musical training that [Virgil] and Aaron had.”[35]

A New Direction[edit]

After the war, eventually settling in Tangier, Morocco, Bowles continued his musical and literary pursuits, gradually letting go of the former and becoming what Virgil Thomson described as, “a novelist and story writer of international repute.”[35]

Paul Bowles referred to Tangier as, “a place where it is still hard to find a piano in tune.”[36] With regards to his establishment as an author in Morocco, Bowles said:

Little by little I was aware of there being atmospheres which I could only portray by writing about them. I was unable to express my emotions in their entirety through music. My music was joyful as I was myself. The more nocturnal side to my personality, I managed to express through language.[36]

With the success of the book, The Sheltering Sky, Bowles struck his first blow for independence. In time this break from the composition of music would see Bowles’ earlier exploits overshadowed completely by his acclaim as a writer of prose.[36]


Only in the decade before his death was there a renewed interest in his musical output from the 1930s and ‘40s. This movement may have culminated in May of 1994, at the Théâtre du Rond-Point in Paris, with the presentation of a live concert performance, and at which the then 83-year-old Paul Bowles was in attendance. The program included a number of Bowles’ original songs and pieces for piano, plus musical tributes and portraits of the composer by Virgil Thomson, Leonard Bernstein, and Philip Ramey.[39] At least as regards the past neglect of his own catalogue, this ongoing revival may serve as proof of Bowles’ own words: “Music only exists when it is played.”[36]

Recording of Moroccan Music[edit]

Paul Bowles was a pioneer in the field of North African ethnomusicology, making field recordings from 1959 to 1961 of traditional Moroccan music for the US Library of Congress.[40] The collection includes dance music, secular music, music for Ramadan and other festivals, and music for animistic rituals. Bowles realised that modern culture would inevitably change and influence the practice of traditional music, and he wanted to preserve some of it.

Bowles commented on the political aspects of the practice of traditional music:

Instrumentalists and singers have come into being in lieu of chroniclers and poets, and even during the most recent chapter in the country's evolution – the war for independence and the setting up of the present regime – each phase of the struggle has been celebrated in song.[41]

The total collection of this recorded music is known as The Paul Bowles Collection; it is archived in the US Library of Congress, Reference No. 72-750123. The Archival Manuscript Material (Collection) contains 97 x 2-track 7" reel-to-reel tapes, containing approximately sixty hours of traditional folk, art and popular music, one box of manuscripts, 18 photographs, and a map, along with the 2-LP recording called Music of Morocco (AFS L63-64).[42]

Translating other authors[edit]

In the 1960s Bowles began translating and collecting stories from the oral tradition of native Moroccan storytellers. His most noteworthy collaborators included Mohammed Mrabet, Driss Ben Hamed Charhadi (Larbi Layachi), Mohamed Choukri, Abdeslam Boulaich, and Ahmed Yacoubi.

He also translated writers whose original work was written in Spanish, Portuguese and French: Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Jorge Luis Borges, Jean-Paul Sartre, Isabelle Eberhardt, Guy Frison-Roche, André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Ramon Gomez de la Serna, Giorgio de Chirico, Si Lakhdar, E. Laoust, Ramon Beteta, Gabino Chan, Bertrand Flornoy, Jean Ferry, Denise Moran, Paul Colinet, Paul Magritte, Popul Buj, Francis Ponge, Bluet d'Acheres and Ramon Sender.

Achievement and legacy[edit]

Paul Bowles is considered one of the artists to have shaped 20th-century literature and music.[43] In his "Introduction" to Bowles' Collected Stories (1979,) Gore Vidal ranked the short stories as "among the best ever written by an American", writing: "the floor to this ramshackle civilization that we have built cannot bear much longer our weight. It was Bowles's genius to suggest the horrors which lie beneath that floor, as fragile, in its way, as the sky that shelters us from a devouring vastness".[44]

Critics have described his music, in contrast, "as full of light as the fiction [is] of dark...almost as if the composer were a totally different person from the writer."[45] During the early 1930s, Bowles studied composition (intermittently) with Aaron Copland; his music from this period "is reminiscent of Satie and Poulenc." Returning to New York in the mid-30s, Bowles became one of the preeminent composers of American theater music, producing works for William Saroyan, Tennessee Williams, and others,[46] "show[ing] exceptional skill and imagination in capturing the mood, emotion, and ambience of each play to which he was assigned." Bowles said that such incidental music allowed him to present "climaxless music, hypnotic music in one of the exact senses of the word, in that it makes its effect without the spectator being made aware of it." At the same time he continued to write concert music, assimilating some of the melodic, rhythmic, and other stylistic elements of African, Mexican, and Central American music.[47]

  • In 1991 Paul Bowles was awarded the annual Rea Award for the Short Story. The jury 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 living American masters of the short story, Paul Bowles is sui generis."[48]
  • The Library of America published Bowles' works in 2002. (It prepares scholarly editions of American literary classics and keeps them permanently in print.)

Notable works[edit]

In addition to his chamber and stage compositions, Bowles published fourteen short story collections, several novels, three volumes of poetry, numerous translations, numerous travel articles, and an autobiography.


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 Menagerie, 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, play

1967 – The Garden, play

1969 – The Bacchae, play

1976 - Cross Country

1978 – Orestes, play

1978 – Caligula, 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

, published by Sylvester & Orphanos

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" by Mohamed Choukri, "The Half Brothers" by Larbi Layachi, "The Lute" by Mohammed Mrabet, and "The Night Before Thinking" by 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

Travel, autobiography and letters[edit]

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)

1997 – "Dear Paul - Dear Ned: The Correspondence of Paul Bowles and Ned Rorem"


1984 – Paul Bowles Selected Songs (edited by Peter Garland)

1993 – Too Far from Home (edited by Daniel Halpern) ISBN 0-88001-295-1

1994 – The Portable Paul and Jane Bowles (edited by Millicent Dillon)

1995 – Paul Bowles: Music (edited by Claudia Swan) ISBN 0-9648083-0-7

2000 – The Paul Bowles Reader (Peter Owen) ISBN 0-7206-1091-5

2001 – The Stories of Paul Bowles (Ecco) ISBN 0-06-621273-1

2002 – The Sheltering Sky, Let It Come Down, The Spider's House (Daniel Halpern, ed. Library of America) ISBN 1-931082-19-7

2002 – Collected Stories and Later Writings (Daniel Halpern, ed. Library of America) ISBN 1-931082-20-0

2010 – Travels: Collected Writings, 1950–93 (Mark Ellingham, ed. Sort Of Books, London) ISBN 978-0-9560038-7-4

Film appearances and interviews[edit]

Paul Bowles in Morocco (1970), produced and directed by Gary Conklin 57 minutes

"Paul Bowles": South Bank ShowLondon Studios (1988), produced by ITV, directed by Melvyn Bragg, 54 minutes

In 1990Bernardo Bertolucci adapted The Sheltering Sky into a film in which Bowles has a cameo role and provides partial narration. 132 minutes

"Things Gone and Things Still Here" 1991, Directed by award winning BBC Filmmaker Clement Barclay. This film tries to decode the world of Paul Bowles in a one-hour documentary. Chicago Film festival winner.

"Paul Bowles The Complete Outsider" 1993, by Catherine Hiller Marnow and Regina Weinreich 57 minutes.

"Halfmoon" 1995, three stories by Paul Bowles, Frieder Schlaich and Irenve von Alberti. First Run Features, 91 minutes

"Halbmond" 1995, German version of "Halfmoon", Frieder Schlaich and Irenve von Alberti. First Run Features, 90 minutes[49]

"Let It Come Down" 1998, Requisite Productions, Zeitgeist Films, pub. 72 minutes, not rated. – this film is likely the definitive portrait of the author late in life. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal, includes footage of the final meeting between Bowles, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg which took place in 1995 in New York. 72 minutes

"Night Waltz" 2002, Owsley Brown Film of the music of Paul Bowles, with Phillip Ramey and an Interview with Jonathan Sheffer, conductor of the Eos Orchestra. 77 minutes


  1. ^Spencer Carr, Virginia (2009), Paul Bowles: A Life, Evanston: Northwestern University Publishing, p. 1 
  2. ^ abcSpencer Carr, Virginia. "Paul Bowles: An Introduction". Special Collections, University of Delaware. 
  3. ^ abc"Obituary for Paul Bowles". The New York Times. 19 November 1999. 
  4. ^Hibbard, Allen. "Paul Bowles: A Biographical Essay". 
  5. ^ abSeidner, David. "Paul Bowles". Retrieved 9 June 2016. 
  6. ^Swan, Claudia, ed. (1995), Paul Bowles Music, Eos Music Incorporated, p. 43, ISBN 9780964808300 
  7. ^"Bowles letter of 9 June 1931 to Edouard Roditi, Berlin," In Touch: The Letters of Paul Bowles
  8. ^"Paul Bowles 1910-1999". Special Collections, University of Delaware. Retrieved 9 June 2016. 
  9. ^"Author: Bowles, Paul". Archived from the original on April 1, 2003. Retrieved September 14, 2016. 
  10. ^Holland, Patrick (2002). "Bowles, Paul (1910-1999)". An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2008. 
  11. ^Ramey, Philip. "A Talk With Paul Bowles". 
  12. ^Warnow, Catherine; Weinreich, Regina (1993) [1988], "Paul Bowles: The Complete Outsider", in Caponi, Gena Dagel, Conversations with Paul Bowles (interview), pp. 214–5 .
  13. ^McInerney, Jay (September 1985), Paul Bowles in Exile, Vanity Fair 

In an essay about the Sahara, “Baptism of Solitude,” Paul Bowles tells us many interesting things about oasis towns (where the fertility of cultivated plants is all-important and birds are hated as seed-stealers) and about the Touareg, a desert-dwelling tribe whose name in Arabic means “lost souls” but who call themselves the “free ones.” But what Bowles (who was born a hundred years ago this past December) prizes above all else about the desert is its absolute solitude. “Why go?” he asks.

The answer is that when a man has been there and undergone the baptism of solitude he can’t help himself. Once he has been under the spell of the vast, luminous, silent country, no other place is quite strong enough for him, no other surroundings can provide the supremely satisfying sensation of existing in the midst of something that is absolute. He will go back, whatever the cost in comfort or money, for the absolute has no price.

As his novel The Sheltering Sky (1949) suggests, the absolute solitude of the desert may exert a strong appeal, but that magnetism is not necessarily salutary. In it two young Americans, Kit and her husband Port, head farther and farther into the desert, even though he is seriously ill and will soon die. When they finally arrive at a remote outpost, Kit observes that at last there is no “visible sign of European influence, so that the scene had a purity which had been lacking in the other towns, an unexpected quality of being complete which dissipated the feeling of chaos.” Here Port dies and Kit enters her own slow process of abjection and self-destruction. “Purity” is the quality Bowles’s characters cherish, but it is a purity that destroys them.

Bowles embraced the desert as a Christian saint embraces his martyrdom. His self-abnegation and his love of traditional culture made him one of the keenest observers of other civilizations America has ever had. Unlike some of his countrymen he did not brashly set out to improve the rest of the world. For Bowles, Americanization was the problem, not the solution.

Although The Sheltering Sky was a first novel, it reads like the work of an experienced master. Bowles was in his late thirties when he wrote it; he had long been living in a sophisticated milieu; and he had carefully edited the remarkable novel Two Serious Ladies by his wife, Jane Bowles. The Sheltering Sky has none of the awkwardness or unevenness of a maiden effort.

It is also surprisingly adroit technically. Novels need different openings than stories do; a novel needs an opening that is inviting, engaging, but not too definitive or even too satisfying. The Sheltering Sky opens with a narrative that wavers between the…

This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:

Print Premium Subscription — $99.95

Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all content on

Online Subscription — $69.00

Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.

One-Week Access — $4.99

Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on

If you already have one of these subscriptions, please be sure you are logged in to your account. If you subscribe to the print edition, you may also need to link your web site account to your print subscription. Click here to link your account services.

0 thoughts on “Baptism Of Solitude Paul Bowles Essay Writing”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *