Paul Bowles was born in Queens, New York, in 1910. He began his travels as a teenager, setting off for Paris, telling no one of his plans. In 1930 he visited Morocco for the first time, with Aaron Copland, with whom he was studying music. His early reputation was as a composer and he wrote the scores for several Tennessee Williams plays.
Bowles married the writer Jane Auer in 1938 and after the war the couple settled in Tangier (although both had mainly same-sex relationships they were devoted companions). In Morocco Paul Bowles turned principally to fiction. The Sheltering Sky – inspired by his travels in the Sahara – was a New York Times bestseller in 1950, and later filmed by Bertolucci. It was followed by three further novels; numerous short stories and translations, notably of the local storyteller Mohammed Mrabet; and the travel pieces collected in Travels.
Paul Bowles died in Tangier in 1999.
The official Paul Bowles website is a fabulous source for information on Paul and Jane Bowles, including galleries of photographs, chronologies of their lives, and full bibliographies. Here are Paul Bowles’s obituaries in the New York Times and The Guardian.
Bowles was a superb reader of his work and a charismatic, if elusive interviewee. For a quick glimpse of the master, discussing what he thinks is important in a novel, take a look at this clip on YouTube.
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