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The Sheltering Sky

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  24,531 ratings  ·  1,733 reviews
In this classic work of psychological terror, Paul Bowles examines the ways in which Americans apprehend an alien culture--and the ways in which their incomprehension destroys them. The story of three American travelers adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II, The Sheltering Sky is at once merciless and heartbreaking in its compassion. It etches ...more
Paperback, 313 pages
Published September 20th 2005 by Ecco Press (first published 1949)
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Khrystyna "A black star appears, a point of darkness in the night sky's clarity. Point of darkness and gateway to repose. Reach out, pierce the fine fabric of t…more"A black star appears, a point of darkness in the night sky's clarity. Point of darkness and gateway to repose. Reach out, pierce the fine fabric of the sheltering sky, take repose."(less)

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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, book-to-film
"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
...more
Jim Fonseca
“On the Road” in North Africa, published eight years before Kerouac’s classic. A 30-ish American married couple and a male friend are traveling in the French colonies right after the end of World War II at a time when the US State Department advised people NOT to travel there because of rampant disease and the disintegration of social conditions and of law and order.

The first half of the book focuses on the husband; the second half on the wife. (view spoiler)
...more
Michael
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hypnotic, searing, terrifying, I first read this when I too was living in North Africa--in Egypt, to be precise--and it utterly shattered me. I recognized something of myself and my fellow expats in the thoughtfully self-centered and naive travelers depicted here, and something of the merciless cruelty of the desert I was never far from. The prose style isn't elaborate, but it isn't stark either, and the best I can describe it is to say that it weaves quite a spell, opening a slight yet horrifyi ...more
Guille
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Alguien le había dicho alguna vez que el cielo esconde detrás la noche; que protege al que está debajo del horror de lo que hay arriba.
— ¿De lo que hay detrás?
— Sí.
— ¿Pero qué hay detrás? —preguntó Kit con un hilo de voz.
— Nada, supongo. Solamente oscuridad. La noche absoluta.”
Una novela terrible y hermosa, una historia triste cargada de escenas atroces, una funesta búsqueda existencial, un viaje al infierno de uno mismo dentro de un brutal choque de culturas.
“Creo que los dos tenemos m
...more
Steven Godin
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
...more
Vessey
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, romance
SPOILERS


“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 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, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’
...more
Darwin8u
“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
...more
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
...more
Julie
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: out-of-africa
The story opens with a young married couple and an attractive male companion, on an adventurous rendezvous in Northern Africa.

Oooooh, how scintillating. . . how very, very scintillating. Starry skies, the soft curves of the sensuous desert in the backdrop. . .

Within just a few pages I had cast the movie. My film version of this story was going to star Ralph Fiennes-as-English Patient, Joseph Fiennes-as-Shakespeare and, well. . . naturally, me. I had already decided that, if one of the Fiennes b
...more
Perry
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The One Book That Made Me Feel as if I was Hypnotized*
“How fragile we are under the sheltering sky. Behind [it] is a vast dark universe, and we're just so small.”


I felt genuinely hypnotized by Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky, a lush and lyrical novel following a married couple and their male friend (they're "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 an affec
...more
Robin
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sensual Existentialism in the Sahara

4.5 stars



Someone once had said to her that the sky hides the night behind it, shelters the person beneath from the horror that lies above.

Married couple Port and Kit Moresby, in a physically and emotionally distant relationship, are traveling through northern Africa with their friend Tunner. Rejecting America and Europe in post WWII disgust, these "travellers" (not tourists, Port is adamant about the difference) hope to find meaning in the mystery of the S
...more
Paul
Jan 12, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hated-it
“A novel of alienation and existential despair” written just after the Second World War. I think I was supposed to like this: I didn’t.
It is essentially about three Americans wandering around North Africa and the Sahara just after the war. Kit and Port Moresby are the centre of the book, a married couple travelling; their friend Tunner is with them for part of the journey. Bowles is very caught up with the difference between a tourist and a traveller, he spent his later life living in North Afri
...more
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
...more
Richard Derus
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
...more
Annet
Every once in a while you come across a book which is beyond 5 stars. For me it hasn't happened that much. But this is one of them for me. the last one I rated this way was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This book is mysterious, intriguing, dark, dangerous, exceptional , loving.... and I have to read it again soon to fully take in all of this beautiful story. It made a deep impression.
trivialchemy
Jan 26, 2008 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
...more
Brian
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Kinga
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-1949
Jane Bowles, Paul Bowles’ wife, used to call him (among other things) “Gloompot”. I wonder how she got that; he seemed like such a cheerful guy.

“The Sheltering Sky” is a story of two (sometimes three) American drifters, who consider themselves “travellers” (rather than primitive tourists, you know), in search of something in North Africa – themselves? The meaning of it all? But end up, of course, losing themselves completely for they didn’t realise they are just a sum of social conventions, bel
...more
Jessica
Jun 14, 2007 added 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
...more
Sarah
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Roman Clodia
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before her eyes was the violent blue sky - nothing else. For an endless moment she looked into it. Like a great overpowering sound it destroyed everything in her mind, paralysed her. Someone has once said to her that the sky hides the night behind it, shelters the person beneath from the horror that lies above. Unblinking, she fixed the solid emptiness, and the anguish began to move in her. At any moment the rip can occur, the edges fly back, and the giant maw will be revealed.

This is like a
...more
Raul Bimenyimana
When books come recommended to us by people whose taste we highly respect, even before we read the very first word, they already take a life of their own molded by our expectations. At times, we're lucky and the book does meet and even surpasses what we expected from it, and at times such as now, it is a disappointment.

This story follows three American travellers trotting around North Africa at a period after the Second World War. This book was written (and is also set) before decolonization beg
...more
Chip
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Mariel
Sep 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Edita
He did not look up because he knew how senseless the landscape would appear. It takes energy to invest life with meaning, and at present this energy was lacking. He knew how things could stand bare, their essence having retreated on all sides to beyond the horizon, as if impelled by a sinister centrifugal force. He did not want to face the intense sky, too blue to be real, above his head, the ribbed pink canyon walls that lay on all sides in the distance, the pyramidal town itself on its rocks, ...more
Ken
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
David
Jul 13, 2007 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
Mary
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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)
Aug 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Courtney
Dec 18, 2006 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Bowles, an expatriate, writes a compelling story of travellers lost in the vast, impassive desert. He touches on how American inability to understand/comprehend other cultures ultimately destroys them.
Kim
Jan 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Oh about a 3.5. It took me a bit to get into this book, or else I would rate it higher. Once I got into it (about halfway through), I couldn't put it down. It was psychologically draining.
maya
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Feb 01, 2007
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marked it as to-read
Mar 02, 2007
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Mar 03, 2007
kristyn
rated it it was ok
Mar 04, 2007
Laura
rated it it was amazing
Mar 06, 2007
Ryan
Mar 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Do you know what Bowles is really good at? Charting the psychologies of people as they go crazy.

Do you like travelling to exotic locales? Read this book. Maybe you won't so much afterwards...
hannah
rated it liked it
Mar 13, 2007
Kamili
marked it as to-read
Mar 14, 2007
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Mar 18, 2007
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Mar 18, 2007
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Mar 18, 2007
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Mar 22, 2007
Emily
Mar 22, 2007 rated it did not like it
Someone please tell me why this book came recommended to me. So boring, so pointless, so annoying.
Tim
rated it liked it
Mar 28, 2007
M.A.G.
Mar 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: E'ryone
My favorite fucking book of all time. It made me realize that I was the supporting character, not the lead.
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Play Book Tag: [poll] the sheltering sky | Paul Bowles 1 8 Feb 26, 2020 05:12PM  
Port Moresby's just desert 5 32 Mar 08, 2016 12:03PM  
my take 2 24 Feb 01, 2016 06:31AM  
Why couldn't I put this book down? 12 70 Dec 01, 2015 07:31AM  
Why Bowles is such a master of suspense 11 34 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

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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.” 418 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.” 118 likes
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