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The Sheltering Sky

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  17,655 Ratings  ·  1,234 Reviews
A story about three American travelers adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II, The Sheltering Sky explores the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness and impassive cruelty of the desert.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
Paperback, 342 pages
Published June 1st 2007 by Penguin Books (first published 1949)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 10, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
"He did not think of himself as a tourist; he was a traveler. The difference is partly one of time, he would explain. Whereas a tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another."

Before meeting Port Moresby, I always thought of myself as a traveler, but after one particular late night discussion accompanied by inebriation, interrupted by
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Lara Messersmith-Glavin
"Each man's destiny is personal only inso as it may resemble what is already in his memory."

This quote is from Eduardo Mallea, and it begins The Sheltering Sky with that strange act of framing that so many authors employ, using the words of others to summarize or introduce the feelings that they are about to try to invoke in their readers. Above this quote is another phrase: "Tea in the Sahara," a chapter title, now-familiar but difficult to place. This was taken by none other than the band The
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Darwin8u
Dec 20, 2015 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing
“How fragile we are under the sheltering sky. Behind the sheltering sky is a vast dark universe, and we're just so small.”
― Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

description

Paul Bowles masterpiece reminds me of some alternate, trippy, version of Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night, but instead we see the other side of the Mediterranean. Tangier and the deserts of North Africa take the place of the South of France. A different love triangle exposes different forms of loneliness, madness, love, and existential expats
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Whitaker
Like a sweet-talking charmer, Bowles seduced me with his crystalline prose. His sentences whispered in my ear and nibbled my nape, erasing thought from my haze-addled brain.

Later, many days later, I came to with a throbbing headache and a sour taste in my mouth. The crystal turned out to be crystal meth and it had severely eroded my judgement. What I had taken to be beautiful and enticing was just a jaded street hustler peddling the same old weary goods that had been around the block just too m
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trivialchemy
Feb 16, 2008 trivialchemy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In my younger days, I sensed that this was a rudely under-appreciated book that, merely acclaimed, deserved inclusion within the canon of the Gods themselves (Hemingway, Melville, Joyce, McCarthy). More recently, I have realized that not the book qua narrative, but its singular intimacy with my person colored the profoundness of my love-affair with this novel. As a result, my review must be peculiarly subjective for someone so accustomed to the pretense of objectivity.

Whether its effect on my li
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Richard Derus
May 25, 2013 Richard Derus rated it it was ok
Rating: A craven, self-preservationistic 2* of five

BkC8: Tedious twaddle.

When I'm right, I'm right.

The Book Report: Kit and Port Moresby (get the Australia/New Guinea colonial joke, huh? huh? How clever is Paul Bowles, right?) are not gonna make it as a couple. They just aren't. So, in time-honored rich-couple-in-over-relationship fashion, they Travel. They don't take a trip, or a vacation, oh perish forbid, they Travel. North Africa, they think, no one we know will be there so we won't have to
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Jessica
Jul 15, 2007 Jessica rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Old Men
I rarely don't finish a book. This is a personal tendency (obsessiveness) which cemented itself during forays into such tomes as Les Miserables (5th grade) and Tess of the D'Urbervilles (10th grade) in which the endeavor seemed like it would be fruitless, and then, ahoy! A beautiful gem on the sparkling sea surfaces, a hundred or so pages in, and I was rewarded for my patience...
So it pains me to report that not even the chance of such a obscured jewel could keep me interested in A Sheltering Sk
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Brian
Mar 23, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I have a reasonable amount of time separating me from September of last year when I read this book for a second time. My wife and I were on a 10 day trip to Morocco and I suggested that we read The Sheltering Sky in tandem. Bowles tale of existential dread and Western culture collision with the desert and denizens of North Africa was supposed to be a fictional journey to parallel our actual one. It wasn’t.

Bowles’ now relatively famous distinction between a traveler and a tourist is an ar
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S.
Jul 17, 2011 S. rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2011
This is an ambitious novel about alienation, isolation and despair. The story revolves around the character of Port Moresby, who, in disillusioned response to WWII, rejects America and Europe, leaving NY for Africa with his wife Kit as well as an acquaintance named Tunner, whom they both dislike.

Port feels Africa is less marred by war, and aims to spend a long period of time there. It’s not that he would fit in, he just wants to escape, or disappear. He may hope to flee his emptiness, but unfort
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Chip
Oct 04, 2008 Chip rated it it was amazing
Oh man oh man. Someday I will have to revisit this, as I seem to mention it to anyone or anything who is willing to listen. Has probably become my favorite book of all time: simultaneously capturing the utter loneliness of existence, and the strange beauty of the desert/and/or the foreign. Makes me want to travel, makes me want to stay home and hide under the covers...it's that good.

I've read almost all of Bowles' other stuff, and some of it comes close to this (especially Let it Come Down), bu
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Steven
May 22, 2016 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, american
This has destroyed me!, an utterly devastating work of immense power where the frailties of life both physically and emotionally are pushed to the very limits in a hostile, dangerous and unforgiving land.
Having settled in Tangier in the late 40's Paul Bowles uses his knowledge and experiences of French North Africa to startling effect. American couple Kit and Port Moresby have a marriage that is disintegrating and feel a trip abroad could help repair their relationship, so to avoid a ravaged Eur
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Mariel
Sep 27, 2014 Mariel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the sky here's very strange
Recommended to Mariel by: tea in the sahara
The desert- its very silence was like a tacit admission of the half-conscious presence it harbored.

The dog's dead eye twitches like nails and hair curling on a grave. Ancient symbols of trickster rabbits depict that stolen cereal tastes better. I have a long stick to prod the poor doggy for some answers. He's the only creature in sight with a memory of life. Wrestling with the strange inhabitants sound closer to where you could go.

My sister told me that I was unfair complaining that some books
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David
Jul 13, 2007 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i was all WOW! or maybe i was all WOWZY WOW WOW after i finished it. this quote will kill you. ""Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not ...more
Brian
Sep 06, 2015 Brian rated it really liked it
I read this early in my 20s - more than a decade before traveling beyond US soil and 15 years before witnessing the siren call of an African desert. Bowles' fiction is hypnotic, and his strongly written characters seem to have relevance to a reader at any stage in life. But I want to put that theory to the test, so I'm reminding myself now: re-read this book.
Mary
Mar 16, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2014
“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don't know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It's that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don't know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Dec 28, 2008 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Diehard romantics and existential atheists
Forgot how much I loved this book. Love it. The richness of the character portraits, relationships, and existential themes; as well as the startling detail of the images are highlighted even more by knowing the ending.

Back with more ... heading into Part II.

12/28/08: A piece of writing by Donald Powell [link now dead-sorry!:] caused me to think about this book, and my very different response to it from when I first read it in my early 20s to 20 years later, when I am--ahem--not in my early 20s.

B
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Szplug
Feb 05, 2011 Szplug rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shivering in the antarctic morality of The Delicate Prey , I'm continually needled by the desire to reread TSS and discover if I would still care as little for it today as I did when I read it more than a dozen years ago. I came to it back then with a fair amount of anticipation, having read several raving reviews, especially from posters I had enjoyed on that usenet staple rec.arts.books; and the disappointment that Bowles engendered in me was crushing. Too distant a narrative; Yank characters ...more
Chrissie
What exactly is the author trying to say with this book? Is he selling us existentialism through this novel? Perhaps. What is he saying about the central couple’s relationship, both with each and with their friends? This too is unclear. The two main protagonists are trying to reach out to each other, but do they succeed? This circles back to the author’s philosophical message. Perhaps it is enough that the book draws our attention to these questions. The answers are not clear.

What does the autho
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Amy
May 25, 2008 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this novel a husband and wife and a sorta friend of theirs are travelling around North Africa. It's the 1940s, so one has to contextualize the sometimes awkward/semi-racist descriptions of the "natives." Or if you aren't interested in giving the characters any leeway, that's okay too, but the book works very well as a portrayal of arrogant, neurotic Americans in a hostile, alien world.

A lot of shit goes down. At first you might think that you are just witnessing the deterioration of a marria
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AC
Jul 27, 2011 AC rated it it was amazing
Having seen the movie, which of course was uneven, I hesitated about reading this book - but needed something I could beat up at the beach. Then there were quite a few quite negative reviews it's gotten from GR friends (that I respect).

Well..., invho, this book is nearly flawless and is a work of near genius. The overall conception, the structure and composition, the depth of language, intelligence... AND the depth of feeling.... Character and plot..., nearly flawless. I would have asked him to
...more
Sara
Sep 19, 2015 Sara added it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ken
Dec 11, 2015 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished-in-2015
When you remember reading a book long ago and you remember liking it, trust your instincts. Read it again. I did and, in the case of The Sheltering Sky, didn't regret a thing. I loved the exotic, North African setting. And the always slightly off-balancing love triangle of Port, Kit, and Tunner (what weirdly wonderful names).

Some stop-me sentences, too. I love stop-me sentences. I never run them. Not even a roll-through. In fact, if no one's behind me, I often back up and fail to run them again
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Mel
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. It was mentioned in Patti Smith's M Train that I had just read as one of her many literary obsessions. I can see why she enjoyed it. The language, which is at times realistic and other times dreamy, is similar to some of the language she uses in her story telling.

Bowles really takes you on a journey through North Africa, and the language he uses to do it is really wonderful. I also felt some of the subject matter and character's reactions are
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Clif Hostetler
Jan 30, 2015 Clif Hostetler rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This 1949 novel is considered by the literati as classic literature that reflects "post-colonial alienation and existential despair." (Quote is from Wikipedia.)

Apparently I don't like "existential despair" because I didn't enjoy reading this book. I will grant that the writing is good. It occurred to me while listening to the audio edition that many portions of the narrative could be presented as free verse at a modern day poetry slam and it could be passed off as good poetry.

But the story its
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Magdelanye
The first time I read this book I was in my 20's, and though it made a deep impression on me, and I loved it passionately, that was so long ago that I was amazed and somewhat dismayed to find that I remembered nothing of the detail. Only towards the end, when I was not surprised by the bizarre events that unfolded, did I have any sense even of deju vu. It was as if I was reading it for the first time.
Once again I was swept up in the lyrical writing and scope of the story.
Bowles is a brilliant s
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Genia Lukin
Aug 18, 2013 Genia Lukin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
Maybe I just don't enjoy post-colonial existential angst. I don't know. perhaps this sort of thing doesn't age as well as other subjects, but I can say I didn't enjoy The Stranger very much, and i found this book to be ultimately extremely boring.

I find it hard even to put down precisely which parts had bored me more than others, but there was a sense of complete offhandedness in the way the book was written that I found basically put me to sleep while reading. Port and Kit were glorified touris
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Perry
May 21, 2016 Perry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amados-libros
“Behind the sheltering sky is a vast dark universe, and we're just so small.”
As much as I disliked the existentialism in Camus' Stranger, set in Algeria, I was absolutely hypnotized by Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky, a lush and lyrical novel following a married couple and their male friend ("travelers," they say, not "tourists") as they wonder aimlessly through the desolation and harshness of the cities and deserts of North Africa shortly after WW II.

Within the novel is a brief allegorical ta
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Kaitlyn Barrett
Meh. For all the years that I’ve been thinking about this book and obsessing about parts of the movie, I found the actual text underwhelming and bewildering. I don’t understand why people would behave this way – especially the relationship between Port and Kit – and I don’t feel I got enough info to actually get it.

Bowles opens Pandora’s box at the end when Kit suffers a psychotic break and he writes it as a series of inexplicable choices made through pain and terror. If he really wanted to take
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Garrett
Dec 04, 2007 Garrett rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in any sort of travel writing
This one reminds me much of both Greene and Maugham. The travelers in the Sheltering Sky are experienced, for sure, dedicated to really getting to know a place, hell-bent (literally) on getting the full experience, of living instead of touring. The swagger and confidence they have, the invincibility they feel, their sense of entitlement ultimately destroys them all in one way or another.
Bowles does an amazing job of describing the landscape (sub-Saharan Africa after WWII), the sickness of one of
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Will Byrnes
Oct 29, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Port Moresby's just desert 5 10 Mar 08, 2016 12:03PM  
my take 2 13 Feb 01, 2016 06:31AM  
Why couldn't I put this book down? 12 58 Dec 01, 2015 07:31AM  
Why Bowles is such a master of suspense 11 26 Jun 27, 2014 02:16PM  
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Paul Bowles grew up in New York, and attended college at the University of Virginia before traveling to Paris, where became a part of Gertrude Stein's literary and artistic circle. Following her advice, he took his first trip to Tangiers in 1931 with his friend, composer Aaron Copeland.

In 1938 he married author and playwright Jane Auer (see: Jane Bowles). He moved to Tangiers permanently in 1947,
...more
More about Paul Bowles...

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“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don't know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It's that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don't know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” 286 likes
“How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” 96 likes
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