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Paul Bowles Travels Sort of Books.jpeg

480pp illlustrated paperback with flaps
ISBN: 978-0956003874


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.


by paul BOWLES

Collected travel writing by one of the great twentieth-century American writers

Paul Bowles was one of the great twentieth-century American writers, author of the defining post-war novel, The Sheltering Sky. His novels are established classics but here is something new – his collected travel writing, spanning nearly fifty years.

Travels includes more than forty articles, ranging from Paris to Ceylon, Thailand, Kenya and Morocco – where Bowles lived from 1947. They are accompanied by original photos from the Paul Bowles archive, an introduction by Paul Theroux, and a chronology by Daniel Halpern.

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.


“Before travel writing is relegated to the remainder shop of history buy this and learn how great it was.” Ali Smith

“Bowles was a writer of brilliant descriptive powers, and almost unequalled in his evocation of the Sahara, with its mesmerising vault of sky, and induction of a feeling of solitude in which “nothing is left but your own breathing and the sound of your heart beating”. But Bowles is also revealed as a traveller open to all types of experience …”  The Independent  READ FULL REVIEW

“As well as a composer and novelist, Paul Bowles was a fine and prolific travel writer. Of the 40 pieces in this excellent collection, mostly written for American magazines, the majority have never been reprinted. Bowles’ career as a “footloose American” began with an impulsive and penniless flight to Paris aged just 17: “I went for months without a bath .. was gnawed by bedbugs every night … and loved it all, because I was in Paris”. But you will not find detailed descriptions of famous monuments or cathedrals in these essays. As he says in “Windows on the Past” (1955), “the culture of a land … is the people who live in it and the lives they lead, not the possessions they have inherited.” His descriptions of the people and the places they live in are pared down to the bare essentials of language. Of all the cities and landscapes he experiences from Thailand to Fez, the Sahara made the greatest impression. It was a “vast, luminous, silent country”, “a mineral landscape lighted by stars like flares.” PD Smith, The Guardian READ FULL REVIEW

Bowles is at his best when writing about places. He can evoke a place with a few sure strokes.
— New York Times

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.