This week is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Paul Bowles. With William Burroughs and the former American School director Joseph McPhillips, Paul Bowles and his wife Jane, were emblematic figures of the beat generation in Morocco. Ibn Warraq reports.
Paul Bowles, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Michael Portman in Burroughs’s Villa Mouniera garden, Tangier - July 1961
While his work as a composer has been over-shadowed by his literary output, it is good to report that there are soon to be recordings of some of his music. In the meantime, the Kasbah museum, the American Légation museum, the Spanish Cervantes Institute and at the French consulate have collaborated on a series of events to be held in Tangier over the week-end of October 27-31.
Bernardo Bertolucci's The Sheltering Sky will be shown at the Cinémathèque Rif, pictures of the French artist Daniel Aron will be shown to the public for the first time, and colloquia on Bowles's writings and the translated versions of his works will be at the university and at Tangier's King Fahd Institute.
Aspects of Jane and Paul's life while in Malaga will be dispalyed at the Cervantes Institute and the Am School of Tangier is proposing pictures and recordings of "Paul Bowles and the American School of Tangier". The Kasbah Museum will feature pictures of Bowles in Tangier and paintings of Mohamed Mrabet, a Moroccan artist and story-teller first translated by Paul Bowles.
While his novel The Sheltering Sky is possibly his best known, his wonderful novel The Spider's House, set in Fez, is his masterpiece. The dilemma of the outsider in an alien society, and the gap in understanding between cultures, recurrent themes of Paul Bowles's writings, are dramatized with brutal honesty in this novel set in Fez, Morocco, during that country's 1954 nationalist uprising. Totally relevant to today's political situation in the Middle East and elsewhere, richly descriptive of its setting, and uncompromising in its characterizations, The Spider's House is perhaps Bowles's best, most beautifully subtle novel.
Bowles, Burroughs and friends
If you intend to visit Tangier for the events, make a point of checking out the fabulously scruffy beat cafe that still runs most nights - The Tanger Inn. The inn also has some stunning old photographs (see above and below) on their wall of the Beat poets and writers who visited the city in the 50's and 60's. For more information on Paul Bowles visit the official Bowles Website.
Jack Kerouac in Tangier - Photo and inscription - Allen Ginsberg