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The Spider's House

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,141 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
Dramatizes the way that the French rulers of Morocco and their successors, the Nationalists, succeeded in ending the medieval traditions in the daily life of towns life Fez.
Hardcover, 406 pages
Published January 1st 1980 by Black Sparrow Press (first published 1955)
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Missy J
What a delight to read a work by Paul Bowles for the first time. Paul Bowles (1910-1999) was a composer and writer, who settled in Tangier (Morocco) in 1947 and lived there as an American expatriate until his death.

His vast knowledge of Moroccan people and their mentality, and what it is like to be a foreigner abroad seeps through his third novel The Spider's House (1955). The book starts off with two different stories. One is written from the point of view of a young, illiterate Moroccan boy c
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-english
The major portion of this book, the first 80%, is an utterly enchanting meditation on an exotic land (Morocco) and the contrasts between the archaic and modernity. The writing is brilliant. But the final part of the story either wobbled or, in my view, just collapsed - as Bowles simply didn't know how to resolve the story he had so meticulously constructed. If one can ignore this flaw, reading this book will be enormously rewarding.
Jennifer (aka EM)
Oct 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been trying to figure out how to review this book. Bowles is one of the most challenging novelists I've read. I read him, and I respond to the ideas and concepts emotionally and with a visceral understanding and empathy, more than intellectually. The plots, characters, dialogue leave me flummoxed but no less entranced.

I now love the two novels I've read, The Sheltering Sky and this one, although I'm convinced that I truly comprehend only about 10 or 15 percent of each one.

Both take place
Jonathan Biddle
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2013
Excellent, excellent book. Bowles sets the story in Fes, Morocco during the struggle for independence from France. I'm currently living in Fes, so it had an added interest to me. Bowles lived in Tangier for over half of his life so he was well acquainted with the Moroccan culture. He brilliantly uses different viewpoints--a local Muslim, a resident American, and a tourist American--to analyze different perspectives on the struggle.

The Fes resident is a committed Muslim who sees his hatred for t
Mar 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for an engrossing story
Recommended to Danny by: Gifted by my sister.
It has been about two years since i read this book, so i won't go into too much plot detail, but i will instead share some of my impressions of the book.
This book was written circa 1956-58 by Paul Bowles, an American author who spent most of his adult life living in Morocco. The book, unsurprisingly, takes place in Morocco on the eve of the revolution in which the Moroccans won their independence from France. The story follows a young Moroccan and an American author simultaneously, and depicts w
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009, default
In Spider's House, Paul Bowles leaves behind the moral lessons of meddling American's and decides to focus, truly, on the events of Morocco. Set during their revolution against the French, the story follows two strands, that of an illiterate but intelligent native boy and that of an American novelist (and his cohorts, at differing times) living in the country for the last five years.

The book is at its strongest when telling from the perspective of the Moroccan boy. He is interesting and unique,
Jasmine Star
As much as I hate to admit it, many of the observations made about culture and the perception of foreigners really opened my eyes. My favourite anecdote is when one of the Moroccan characters sees a woman, and the way he takes her in. He notices her hair is uncovered, the jewellery she wears, but mainly how brazen she is, how flamboyant her gestures are, and how loud her speech is. Initially he says, “She must be a prostitute of the lowest sort, because even decent prostitutes display some sense ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, favorites
The trick with historical novels is to make them equally specific and general. Reading them a long time after the events they depict have transpired, one should ideally feel the same sense of urgency of history being lived and written, as well as comprehending the socio-political context of their creation. This is no small feat.

Some historical novels go beyond even this; they become cultural and historic touchstones that, presciently, seem to predict or comment upon courses of events beyond thei
Tempo de Ler
Neste livro, Paul Bowles leva-nos até Marrocos, no início dos anos 50; tempo de conflito entre árabes e franceses. A vida adquire um tom anárquico, os homens abandonaram as suas famílias, forçados pela pobreza, em busca de trabalho em cidades vizinhas ou alistaram-se no exército onde há a garantia de que terão o que comer.

Tensão, raiva e uma boa dose de preconceito de ambos os lados levam ao desencadear de acções violentas que espalham o terror...e acabam por juntar três indivíduos cuja aproxim
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paul-bowles
There were a hundred things to say; there was nothing to say. He felt as if he had turned to stone.
His first reaction, that day,when he had identified his fear, was to sit down on a rock and stare at the ground.You've got to get hold of yourself, he thought. He could usually discover the origin of a state of anxiety; as often as not it was traceable to some precise physical cause, like insufficient sleep or indigestion. But what he had experienced in that flash had been almost like a momentary
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never wanted this book to end. Bowles is amazing in his ability to portray so many different sides and cultures that are at conflict, not only assuming how they might act or speak, but going into entire thought processes, histories and cultural values revealing an entire reasoning for every action. I felt the same way when I finished The Sheltering Sky and I can't wait to read more of his writing.
Roksolana Sviato
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-novel
Знайомство з Полом Боулзом почала не з його найвідомішого "The Sheltering Sky", що чекає на мене вже роки два, а несподівано з "Дому павука", який порадили зовсім недавно. Але порадила особа, котра сама прожила декілька років у Танжері, дуже багато читає (в тому числі, про марокканську історію та культуру), і назвала саме цей текст найточнішим і найцікавішим із того, що можна знайти в художній літературі про цю країну.
Щоб надто не спойлерити, скажу лише, що йдеться про 1950-ті роки - а власне, п
Mindy McAdams
Loved this. There were a few short bits between an American man (a writer similar to the author) and an American woman (a beautiful traveler) that got a little tedious, but otherwise it was nearly perfect. The first thing by Paul Bowles I've read. I was looking for books set in Morocco and this story, which takes place in Fes in 1955, was of special interest because Bowles lived in Morocco from 1947 until his death in 1999.

A good part of the book (at least one-third) is from the point of view o
Aug 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One could read this novel in many ways: as Paul Bowles' skewering of his own orientalist desires for Moroccan transhistorical "primitivism"; as a fictionalised account of the beggining of the Moroccan revolution; as a far superior, more complex and far more critical reading of the "clash of civilizations" thesis; as a novel about a stupid American man pursuing a rather bratty American woman; as a novel about tourism and travel, to be read alongside Edward Said's Orientalism; as an attempt to und ...more
Christopher Sutch
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is definitely the best of Bowles's first three novels, an extremely detailed and well-crafted story about the beginnings of the Moroccan struggle for independence from France. The novel's protagonist is a Fassi boy and much of the story is told from his point of view, which makes the contrast between his worldview and that of the American characters very stark and, ultimately, devastating. The American protagonists are slowly revealed to be people entirely selfish and not knowledgeable abou ...more
David Corvine
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: morocco
This should have been an easy one for me.... I like Paul Bowles and I like Fez. Unfortunately, this book just didn't work for me, overly long and meandering. The relationship between Stenham and Lee Burroughs just doesn't ring true. They don't seem that interested in,or even to like, each other. If this had been written by Graham Greene it would have been two hundred pages shorter and the boy would have ended up dead through some act of betrayal. Bowles seems to have been dragged reluctantly int ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Většina příběhů se točí kolem trojúhelníků. Nejčastěji manželských nebo partnerských. Také příběh pavoučího domu se točí víceméně stále jen kolem tří osob. Ale do klasického manželského trojúhelníku má na míle daleko.
--- První z třetice hlavních hrdinů je mladičký marocký chlapec Amr. Ještě není moc poznamenaný nově přicházející kulturou evropanů a tak jeho život řídí Alláh.
Joshua Buhs
An uneven marriage of fable and character study.

"The Spider's House" is Bowles's third book, though it reads a bit more like a first book, what with a central character who stands in for the author, a lot of discussion of personal philosophy, a flabby structure, and all of this overwhelmed by a story that is too rooted in symbolism.

Which is not to say that it's a bad book, necessarily: better than his fourth and final novel, though no where near as good as his first two or many of his short stor
I've been living in Fez for four days with Amar, Polly (Lee) and John Stenham. What an adventure inside and out of the medina. Paul Bowles artfully weaves Arabic and French words in the story which did bother me at first (much like the first few days traveling in Asia or the Middle East) until i gave into it and caught on. War between the French and Moroccans wasn't the only battle going on. It was a battle of the sexes when Lee and Stenman got together. It was also a battle between pure Islam a ...more
It's said that Bowles's forbidding short stories differ from his friendlier novels. As I've read just two stories and one novel and have gleaned the outline of another novel and some critical comments about the author and his writing, I really do enjoy this novel more. It's also considered his best literary work by some critics. The theme of multiculturalism brings together several groups of participants in the era of 1954. In the early twentieth century, the French made Morocco a Protectorate; ...more
David Mueller
Feb 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who is already a fan of Bowles' work will find much to enjoy here. This novel is full of the penetrating psychological and political insight typical of his best writings. The setting is the early 50's (most likely late 53- early 54) in the Morrocan city of Fez, on the eve of that country's uprising against the French. Many of Bowles' observations on the relations between the occupying French and the Morrocans are stilll depressingly relevant to the political theater of today. The pace her ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the famous author who lived in Fez, eve of 1956 from the POV of a teenage boy and a crusty American expat. I enjoyed being in Fez while reading this, as it brought the city alive in a new way; it made you see the cracks and crevices and piles of trash as parts of a long fascinating and tumultuous history. Interesting to read the POV of a Muslim boy written by an American, too--and his other character is a writer bemoaning how the romantic Fez he knew will never be the same. I didnt finish t ...more
Rich Flammer
Dec 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I enjoy about reading Paul Bowles is the departure one inevitably embarks on during the process. Not just the fact that the places he writes about - and his ability to transport you there - are truly far away, but also the thought processes, opinions, and perceptions of the characters... wholly formed yet so very refreshingly different. Yet the differences, the color, of these characters (at nearly the end of the book I realized at least 3 or 4 of them, although completely at odds in terms ...more
Julie Tridle
I'm afraid I'm only giving this book three stars because my brain is currently too mushy to have allowed me to enjoy it more. So actually, I give my brain 3 stars. I will say I liked the cast of characters and story in Let It Come Down a lot better than I did with this book. I'm afraid it's been too long since my last reading of The Sheltering Sky to really make any comparisons there. Sort of a lame review I know.
Nicole Parsons
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More essential Morocco reading
Nick Calligeros
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first meeting with Bowles but will be seeking out more right away. I picked up The Spiders House as a piece of supplementary material preluding my trip to Morocco. It sounded less dark and more insightful than The Sheltering Sky. Putting it down not only did his writing give great insights into the country's cultural workings and recent history, but I found his writing really affecting. What I enjoyed the most was his ability to bring to the physical world those hazy inner-thoughts t ...more
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. Does not quite attain the acuity and perfection of The Sheltering Sky, but at times they certainly seem within reach. Still poignant in 2017; recommended to any cultural relativist, be they marvelling at the "purity" of the "natives", or having a liberal missionary vision for "progress".
R. West
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
May be his best work! Though I am partial to The Sheltering Sky :)
Robin Friedman
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Bowles (1910 -- 1999) was an American composer and writer who lived as an expatriate in Tangier beginning in 1947. Bowles' third novel takes its title from a verse in The Koran:

"The likeness of those who choose other patrons than Allah is as the likeness of the spider when she taketh unto herself a house, and lo! the frailest of all houses is the spider's house, if they but knew."

Unlike Bowles' famous novel, "The Sheltering Sky" which tells the story of lost, wandering Americans, "The Spide
Muneera Salem-Murdock
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, french
Read it while in Morocco, probably twice. It takes place in Fés. Really good.
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The World's Liter...: The Spider's House by Paul Bowles 35 30 Apr 12, 2016 10:05PM  
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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 about Paul Bowles...
“The only thing that makes life worth living is the possibility of experiencing now and then a perfect moment. And perhaps even more than that, it's having the ability to recall such moments in their totality, to contemplate them like jewels.” 22 likes
“If people are living the same as always, with their bellies full of food, they'll just go on the same way. If they get hungry and unhappy enough, something happens.” 14 likes
More quotes…