Authors: Paul Bowles

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American short-story writer, novelist, and poet

Author Works

Short Fiction:

The Delicate Prey, and Other Stories, 1950

A Little Stone: Stories, 1950

The Hours After Noon, 1959

A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard, 1962

The Time of Friendship, 1967

Pages from Cold Point, and Other Stories, 1968

Three Tales, 1975

Things Gone and Things Still Here, 1977

Collected Stories of Paul Bowles, 1939-1976, 1979

Midnight Mass, 1981

Call at Corazón, and Other Stories, 1988

A Distant Episode: The Selected Stories, 1988

Unwelcome Words, 1988

A Thousand Days for Mokhtar, and Other Stories, 1989

The Stories of Paul Bowles, 2001

Long Fiction:

The Sheltering Sky, 1949

Let It Come Down, 1952

The Spider’s House, 1955

Up Above the World, 1966


Scenes, 1968

The Thicket of Spring: Poems, 1926-1969, 1972

Next to Nothing, 1976

Next to Nothing: Collected Poems, 1926-1977, 1981


Yallah, 1957

Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue, 1963

Without Stopping, 1972

Points in Time, 1982

Days: Tangier Journal, 1987-1989, 1991

Conversations with Paul Bowles, 1993 (Gena Dagel Caponi, editor)

In Touch: The Letters of Paul Bowles, 1994 (Jeffrey Miller, editor)


The Lost Trail of the Sahara, 1952 (of R. Frison-Roche’s novel)

No Exit, 1958 (of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play)

A Life Full of Holes, 1964 (of Driss ben Hamed Charhadi’s autobiography)

Love with a Few Hairs, 1967 (of Mohammed Mrabet’s fiction)

The Lemon, 1969 (of Mrabet’s fiction)

M’Hashish, 1969 (of Mrabet’s fiction)

The Boy Who Set the Fire, 1974 (of Mrabet’s fiction)

The Oblivion Seekers, 1975 (of Isabelle Eberhardt’s fiction)

Harmless Poisons, Blameless Sins, 1976 (of Mrabet’s fiction)

Look and Move On, 1976 (of Mrabet’s fiction)

The Big Mirror, 1977 (of Mrabet’s fiction)

The Beggar’s Knife, 1985 (of Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s fiction)

Dust on Her Tongue, 1989 (of Rey Rosa’s fiction)

Chocolate Creams and Dollars, 1992 (of Mrabet’s fiction)


Too Far from Home: The Selected Writings of Paul Bowles, 1993


Even as a child, Paul Bowles (bohlz), the son of a dentist father and schoolteacher mother, demonstrated talent in many areas. He had begun writing seriously by the age of seventeen, and in 1928 his surrealist poetry was published in the Paris literary magazine Transition. Seventeen years were to elapse, however, before he published the first of the fiction for which he became known.{$I[AN]9810001407}{$I[A]Bowles, Paul}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Bowles, Paul}{$I[geo]MOROCCO;Bowles, Paul}{$I[tim]1910;Bowles, Paul}

Paul Bowles

(Cherie Nutting)

After finishing high school and attending one semester at the University of Virginia, Bowles left for Paris in 1929 on a six-month adventure. He returned to New York to study composition with Aaron Copland, who recognized and nurtured Bowles’s musical ability. In 1931, Bowles met Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris. Both encouraged him in his writing, and Stein recommended that Bowles, who preferred a mild climate, try living in Morocco. Bowles and Copland spent part of the summer with Stein and Toklas in the south of France, after which they settled into life in Tangier. Bowles at first continued to devote himself to music, composing theater scores and chamber music, but after his story “A Distant Episode” was published in Partisan Review, he was encouraged to pursue his writing. Bowles married writer Jane Auer in 1938. In Tangier, he found that the juxtaposition of Arab and Western cultures provided him with a context for expressing his ingrained nihilism, which was substantially heightened by his exposure to writers such as Albert Camus, André Gide, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Bowles’s 1958 translation of Sartre’s play Huis-clos (pr. 1944; No Exit, 1946) is the standard English version of the play. Bowles’s childhood exposure to the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe also influenced his writing.

Bowles’s first novel, The Sheltering Sky, is the engrossing tale of the New Yorkers Kit and Port Moresby who, with their friend Tunner, venture into the Sahara; the region’s barrenness mirrors the barrenness of their lives. They are, according to Bowles, not merely tourists but travelers, who have traveled for the twelve years of their peripatetic marriage. The thesis of this metaphoric, nihilistic novel is that nothing exists beyond the sheltering sky. The here exists, the now exists, but although neither is meaningful, it is all that people have; beyond there lies an abyss.

In his later novels, Bowles is directly concerned with how and whether the two worlds he knows best can ever understand each other, if one can ever have meaning for the other. The answer his characters suggest is that there is little meaning even in their own worlds; to look for meaning in alien worlds is unrealistic. Let It Come Down focuses on Nelson Dyar, a bank clerk from New York who has come to Tangier seeking adventure. He kills an Arab by accident and is exposed to the whole treachery of Tangier’s exotic society. The novel is reminiscent of Camus’s L’Étranger (1942; The Stranger, 1946) and emphasizes, as do most of Bowles’s short stories and his novels, the question of bridging opposing cultures. The Spider’s House, which some consider Bowles’s most finely crafted novel, explores the crumbling traditional Muslim culture of a Fez boy, Amar, during the Moroccan fight for independence. Bowles’s last novel, Up Above the World, is a partly surrealist crime novel set in South America.

In 1960, Bowles began collecting and translating Moghrebi literature, both oral and written, into English, in the attempt to preserve the native literature of his adopted home. Because of his self-banishment from the United States and from mainstream literary circles, Bowles’s reputation grew slowly, but he developed a persistent following of sophisticated readers and was recognized as one of the most profound writers of twentieth century literature. He died in 1999 just short of his eighty-ninth birthday.

BibliographyCaponi, Gina Dagel. Paul Bowles. New York: Twayne, 1998. Provides an excellent introduction to Bowles and his writings. After a brief chronology and biography, Caponi explores the breadth of Bowles’s canon through various critical lenses: existentialism, postcolonial literature, detective fiction, surrealism, extraordinary consciousness, travel writing, and historical fiction.Caponi, Gina Dagel. Paul Bowles: Romantic Savage. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994. Biographical and critical study of Bowles’s life and art examines the sources of his fiction, his major themes and techniques, and his methods of story composition.Caponi, Gina Dagel, ed. Conversations with Paul Bowles. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993. Collection of reprinted and previously unpublished interviews reveals Bowles’s own opinions about his life and art. Bowles often tended to give perverse responses to interview questions, but he still communicated a great deal about the relationship between himself and his work. He claimed that the man who wrote his books did not exist except in the books.Dillon, Millicent. You Are Not I: A Portrait of Paul Bowles. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Biography traces the relationship between the author and his wife Jane Auer Bowles. Dillon reevaluates the views she expresses in her biography of Jane Bowles and provides her own speculations on Paul Bowles’s life and work.Green, Michelle. The Dream at the End of the World: Paul Bowles and the Literary Renegades in Tangier. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Presents a lively account of the artistic and socialite sets that congregated in Tangier in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Investigates the life of Bowles and those who came to stay with him in Morocco, providing some interesting background details for readers of Bowles’s fiction. Includes photographs and index.Hibbard, Allen. Paul Bowles: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993. This introduction to Bowles’s short fiction discusses his debt to Edgar Allan Poe’s theories of formal unity and analyzes his short-story collections as carefully organized wholes. Also includes material from Bowles’s notebooks and previously published critical essays by other critics.Lacey, R. Kevin, and Francis Poole, eds. Mirrors on the Maghrib: Critical Reflections on Paul and Jane Bowles and Other American Writers in Morocco. Delmar, N.Y.: Caravan Books, 1996. Collection of critical essays on the Bowleses and the Beats explores the relationship between the concept of otherness and Morocco. Includes a number of essays by Moroccan critics, who provide a North African viewpoint on the strengths and weaknesses of Bowles’s depiction of their homeland.Patterson, Richard. A World Outside: The Fiction of Paul Bowles. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987. Comprehensive, scholarly examination of Bowles’s work provides extensive discussion of The Sheltering Sky. Includes informative endnotes and index.Pounds, Wayne. Paul Bowles: The Inner Geography. New York: Peter Lang, 1985. Serves as a good introduction to Bowles and his use of landscape. Demonstrates the connection between setting and the spiritual states of Bowles’s characters.Sawyer-Laucanno, Christopher. An Invisible Spectator: A Biography of Paul Bowles. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989. Very readable account of the writer’s life offers some intriguing speculation on the connections between events in Bowles’s life and the plots of his stories. Includes notes, a select bibliography that lists Bowles’s major works in literature and music, and an index.
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