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The Sheltering Sky

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  22,649 ratings  ·  1,582 reviews
The Sheltering Sky is a landmark of twentieth-century literature. In this intensely fascinating story, Paul Bowles examines the ways in which Americans' incomprehension of alien cultures leads to the ultimate destruction of those cultures.

A story about three American travelers adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II, The Sheltering Sky explores
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Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Ecco (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…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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Community Reviews

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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  22,649 ratings  ·  1,582 reviews


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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
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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)
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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
Steven Godin
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, america
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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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’t
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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
“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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Julie
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 Sah
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Perry
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The One Book I Can Truly Say 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 was absolutely 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
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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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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
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Brian
Sep 23, 2015 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.
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
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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
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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
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Kinga
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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Annet
May 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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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
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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
Ken
Nov 26, 2015 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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Mary
Dec 15, 2013 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)
Aug 23, 2008 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
...more
Clif Hostetler
Jan 23, 2015 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
...more
Brian
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Anna
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
L'Être et le Sahara

This novel is a portrayal of the African cultural shock experienced by Western visitors, painted in existentialist colors. The trip taken by Port and Kit Moresby in their flight from post-WWII chaos and in hope of healing their twelve years of marriage is Bowles’s stage for the classic-flavored existentialist drama. In one of the initial, almost Kafkaesque scenes where Port immerses himself in the foreign night following a young woman who sells her body and time for money, the
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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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Elyse Walters
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is another book which sat unread on my shelf getting dusty. I might have read it sooner had I known the storytelling would include some juicy cat-fighting -nasty conniving covert back stabbing self destructing characters!!
I loved the book.....while at the same time had an aversion to the characters.

I laughed at symbolic sentences such as....."The dining room was unfriendly and formal to a degree which is acceptable only when the service is impeccable; this was not the case here. I'd break
...more
Alex
Dec 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, dick-lit
I'm looking for a book about white people who drink too much, do you have anything like that? Oh right this way sir, right here in the front we have our White People Who Drink Too Much shelf. Wow there's a whole shelf, huh. Yes it turns out that nearly every single book ever written is about white people who drink too much. Gosh! Do they sometimes also have sex with each other in combinations that they later regret? Always, sir. Always. Oh good, I've been wondering how white people who drink too ...more
Amy
May 17, 2008 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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Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Radiantflux
52nd book for 2018.

A book about a rich intellectually pretentious American couple, who travel shortly after the Second World War to North Africa to immerse themselves in the local colour, and who within a couple of weeks are (some combination of) robbed, gang raped, driven insane, and/or dead from typhoid dysentery.

Nice writing, but not much in the way of plot, misogynistic, and the ending seemed tacked on. Some nice descriptions of sand and dust.

3-stars.
Chris_P
The Sheltering Sky with the somewhat unattractive greek title Τσάι στη Σαχάρα, has left me with mixed feelings. The word that kept flashing in my mind throughout the book is detachment. The unlikable main characters are detached from one another and so is the reader from them. Their personalities, just like their most personal and hidden thoughts, are laid out in front of the reader like shadowplay watched from afar, thus never close enough to actually make connection. Of course, it's deliberate ...more
Szplug
Feb 05, 2011 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
Mook Woramon
อานหนังสือดีๆไมเคยอินกะเคาเลยยย สงสารตัวเองเหลือเกิน

คูรักทีชีวิตคูกำลังจะพังทลาย เดินทางไปหาความตืนเตนและความหมายของชีวิตในแอฟริกา เดิมกมีความปวยใจกันอยูเปนทุนเดิม แตไปเจอชะตากรรมหดหู รันทดในแอฟริกาอีก ชีวิตพังทลายกันไปหมด แหลกสลายไมอาจเปนอยางเดิม สงสัยแควาถายอนเวลาได เคาจะเลือกไปหาความหมายในแอฟริกาเหมือนเดิมมัยนะ รึจริงๆแลวจิตใจของพวกเคากบิดเบียวจนไมอาจเยียวยาไดอยูแลวกันแน

จริงๆมักไมคอยอินกับแนวเรืองการเดินทางเพือคนหาความหมายอะไรบางอยาง เพราะชีวิตจริงไมเคยรูสึกแบบนัน 5555
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Ned
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book is alluded to by both protagonists, and it seems to be spiritual and existential terror of what lies outside of the earth's atmospheric canopy. The shelter guards against the fear of nothingness, no God or protector against the festering human condition (i.e. the western culture that has ruined the earth and psyche for which Port seeks escape). The unrelenting sun of the Sahara is recurrent, and its penetrating eye is considered malevolent. Port seeks that oblivion, to kno ...more
Sara Batkie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
AC
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-english
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
Mojo_Mama
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loved
Having lived in Egypt for most of my 20's, I related to this in a visceral way. There are parts of North Africa and the Middle East that are beautifully magical. There are other parts that are hell on earth. It's sometimes just the luck of the draw which experience you might encounter there.
Genia Lukin
Jul 15, 2013 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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Max
Oct 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: postmodern
The Sheltering Sky is an unnerving spiraling descent into oblivion. Bowles uses evocative descriptions of a journey deep into the Sahara to mirror a journey of disintegration of the human spirit. The narrative is packed with disquieting wistful insights. For example, “The wind blew, the sand would settle, and in some as yet unforeseen manner time would bring about a change which would only be terrifying, since it could not be a continuation of the present.”

Like the landscape, the characters are
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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
...more
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
...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Port Moresby's just desert 5 26 Mar 08, 2016 12:03PM  
my take 2 23 Feb 01, 2016 06:31AM  
Why couldn't I put this book down? 12 67 Dec 01, 2015 07:31AM  
Why Bowles is such a master of suspense 11 32 Jun 27, 2014 02:16PM  

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552 followers
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
“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.” 387 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.” 115 likes
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