The Stories of Paul Bowles
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An American literary cult figure, Paul Bowles established his legacy with the novel The Sheltering Sky. An immediate sensation, it became a fixture in American letters. Bowles then returned his energies to the short story -- the genre he preferred and soon mastered.
Bowles's short fiction is orchestral in composition and exacting in theme, marked by a unique, delicately spare style and a dark, rich, exotic mood, by turns chilling, ironic, and wry. In "Pastor Dowe at Tacaté," a Protestant missionary is sent to the far reaches of the globe -- a place, he discovers, where his God has no power. In "Call at Corazón," an American husband abandons his alcoholic wife on their honeymoon in a South American jungle. In "Allal," a boy's drug-induced metamorphosis into a deadly serpent leads to his violent death, but not before he feels the "joy" of sinking his fangs into human prey. Also gathered here are Bowles's most famous works, such as "The Delicate Prey," a grimly satisfying tale of vengeance, and "A Distant Episode," which Tennessee Williams proclaimed "a masterpiece of short fiction."
"Beauty and terror go wonderfully well together in [Bowles's] work," Madison Smartt Bell once said. Though sometimes shocking, Bowles's stories have a symmetry that is haunting and ultimately moral. Like Poe (whose stories Bowles's mother read to him at bedtime), Bowles had an instinctive adeptness with the nightmare vision. Joyce Carol Oates, in her introduction to Too Far from Home, writes that his characters are "at the mercy of buried wishes experienced as external fate." In these masterful stories, our deepest fears are manifest, tables are turned, and allegiances are tested. Fate is an inexorable element of Bowles's distant landscapes, and its psychological effects on his characters are rendered with penetrating accuracy. Like Hemingway, Bowles is famously unsentimental, a skilled craftsman of crystalline prose.
girls who rushed together into the coffeehouse and told the qaouaji who had killed the Reguiba. It was only a matter of an hour before the French military police had caught him at a friend’s house, and dragged him off to the barracks. That night the Professor had nothing to eat, and the next afternoon, in the slow sharpening of his consciousness caused by increasing hunger, he walked aimlessly about the courtyard and the rooms that gave onto it. There was no one. In one room a calendar hung on
cushions. For a while they were busy adjusting the folds of their robes around their shoulders and legs. “They make their own clothes,” volunteered Brooks. “All the monks do.” I spoke of Ceylon; there the monks bought the robes all cut and ready to sew together. Yamyong smiled appreciatively and said: “We use the same system here.” The air-conditioning roared at one end of the room and the noise of boat motors on the river seeped through the windows at the other. I looked at the three sitting
shook her head. No, no. It was written, that’s all. From another part of the chamber came Fatoma’s shrill voice: Lies! It’s not true! She knew they weren’t going to let the food in! She knew before she went to the hospital! Fatoma was silenced. The qadi, nevertheless, made a note, and the following day when she was called to the witness stand, he asked her to elaborate. As a result of Fatoma’s tale, they next called in Lalla Halima, the neighbor from across the street. She too had to be asked
maledictions and obscenities upon the French and Spanish. They had no idea of how to run a colony, or of how to manage the ignorant and slothful natives. I had an unreasoning conviction that our Amphitryon’s mounting frenzy was the result of a decision he had made to involve us in an unpleasantness of some sort. “You know, he’s out of his mind,” I muttered to the Canadian beside me. He nodded, not looking away from the malevolent face. When the Zanzibari brought on the fruit, Sir Nigel sprang
up onto the sand of a small cove at one side of the cliff. When he looked up the two Indians were standing on the sand, and one of them was saying, “Come.” They did not help him get ashore; he did this with some difficulty, although he was conscious of none. As soon as he was on land they led him along the foot of the cliff that curved away from the water. Following a tortuous track beaten through the undergrowth they came out all at once at the very foot of the wall of rock. There were two