The American Paul Bowles (1910-1999) was a true polymath. A renowned composer, poet, photographer, translator, critic and prolific correspondent. Of course, he is primarily revered as an author, his works firmly set in the canon of modern greats. His first novel, 1949’s The Sheltering Sky, was later adapted for the big screen by Bernardo Bertolucci.
Born in New York, he studied poetry at The University of Virginia, while simultaneously being schooled in musical composition by Aaron Copland. Extensive travelling through Europe & North Africa before the Second World War brought friendships and working relationships with Gertrude Stein, Christopher Isherwood, Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams and John Paul Sartre, and after peace was declared, Bowles settled in Tangiers where he was to spend the next half century until his death on the eve of the new millennium.
It was North Africa, and specifically the Tangier International Zone – a region co-governed by the Spanish, French and British until Moroccan independence in 1956 – that fuelled his imagination and propelled his writing. The often explosive mix of traditional Islamic life with the European colonial rule was a ticking time bomb masterfully portrayed in Bowles’ work.