Paul Bowles: ‘Here’s My Message. Everything Gets Worse’ by Paul Theroux

1960s: Days of Rage

The Sheltering Sky was Paul Bowles’s first novel, and although he honed his art almost to his dying day—novels, poems, stories, translations, as well as musical scores—it was this strange, uneven, and somewhat hallucinatory novel, and a handful of disturbing short stories written around the same time, that seemed to locate his fictional vision for good in the minds of his readers. So at the age of 38 he was defined, and that definition dogged him for the rest of his life. Even in his eighties he was pestered about details in the novel. I know this to be true because I was one of the people pestering him when he was that great age. I found him sitting on the floor of a back room in a large chilly apartment in a gray building on a back street in Tangier. It was October and clammy cold. To drive…

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