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Author(s): Paul Bowles

Location(s): World

Genre(s): Travelogue

Era(s): Second half of the 20th Century



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

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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...

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