Cover image for The stories of Paul Bowles
The stories of Paul Bowles
Bowles, Paul, 1910-1999.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Short stories
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ecco, [2001]

Physical Description:
xii, 657 pages ; 24 cm
By the water -- The echo -- A distant episode -- Call at Corazón -- The scorpion -- Under the sky -- At Paso Rojo -- You are not I -- Pages from Cold Point -- Pastor Dowe at Tacaté -- Tea on the mountain -- How many midnights -- The circular valley -- The delicate prey -- Señor Ong and Señor Ha -- The fourth day out from Santa Cruz -- Doña Faustina -- The successor -- If I should open my mouth -- The hours after noon -- The frozen fields -- Tapiama -- A thousand days for Mokhtar -- The story of Lahcen and Idir -- He of the assembly -- A friend of the world -- The hyena -- The wind at Beni Midar -- The garden -- The time of friendship -- Afternoon with Antaeus -- Mejdoub -- The Fqih -- Reminders of Bouselham -- Istikhara, Anaya, Medagan and the Medaganat -- Things gone and things still here -- Midnight mass -- Here to learn -- The eye -- The waters of Izli -- You have left your lotus pods on the bus -- Allal -- The dismissal -- Madame and Ahmed -- Kitty -- The husband -- At the Krungthep Plaza -- Bouayad and the money -- The little house -- The empty amulet -- Rumor and a ladder -- In the red room -- Massachusetts 1932 -- Tangier 1975 -- Julian Vreden -- Hugh Harper -- Unwelcome words -- New York 1965 -- An inopportune visit -- In absentia -- Dinner at Sir Nigel's -- Too far from home.
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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 Tacat#65533;," 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 Coraz#65533;n," 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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Bowles was born in New York City in 1910 and died in 1999. He lived a long time in Morocco, a country with which he will always be identified, for Moroccan atmosphere and customs imbued his novels as well as the short stories upon which his literary reputation most firmly rests. In 1968 he co-founded Antaeus literary review with Daniel Halpern, and the magazine soon grew into Ecco Press. To coincide with its thirtieth anniversary, Ecco has compiled the first complete collection of Bowles' short stories. Not surprisingly, Morocco provides the setting for his two masterpieces, "The Delicate Prey," a shocking tale about three tribesmen crossing remote and hostile terrain, and "A Distant Episode," an equally disturbing story about a professor who is cruelly made the mutilated toy of desert nomads. The clash of alien and native cultures is a predominant theme found in Bowles' stories, worked out in various plot situations but always rendered in his trademark lucid, direct style. A necessary purchase for all active literature collections. --Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

As elusive as his enigmatic fiction, which is epitomized by the 1949 autobiographical bestselling novel, The Sheltering Sky, Bowles (1910-2001) arguably has been venerated as much for being the mythical forerunner of the Beat Generation as for his considerable genius, both musical and literary. A darling of iconoclastic literati both here and abroad, he first became known as a composer, writing music for stage and screen. Only after his marriage to Jane Auer (herself soon to become a cultishly popular writer under the name Jane Bowles) in 1938 did he turn seriously to fiction. The exotic settings of the 62 stories collected in this landmark volume reflect the wanderings of nomadic Paul and Jane as, during the '30s and '40s, they flitted from Europe to Mexico, the Caribbean and the U.S. before finally settling in Tangiers in 1949. Over the years, Bowles's fascination with Western man's intrinsic decadence, laid bare in clashes with exotic cultures, became the signature motif of his existential fiction ("The Hours After Noon" and "Too Far from Home"). His oblique language and abrupt endings ("At Paso Rojo") are curiously confounding, and his tales are invariably charged with subterranean currents. Frankly incestuous and homosexual, "Pages from Cold Point" is almost certain to stir anew speculation about Bowles's sexual orientation. Earthy, violent and comfortable with corruption, these deeply affecting stories are distinguished by their lyrical rhythms and meticulous regard for language. The assemblage of this impressive collection marks a literary event of the highest order. (Oct.) Forecast: This definitive volume will be a must-have for all major libraries, and should attract much review attention and feature coverage. Bowles cofounded Antaeus magazine with Daniel Halpern in 1968, and soon afterward the magazine became the Ecco Press. This collection is being published to coincide with Ecco's 30th anniversary, and publisher Halpern will be available to discuss his longtime friendship with Bowles. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A definitive collection of the enigmatic master's short fiction. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Stories of Paul Bowles Chapter One By the Water The melting snow dripped from the balconies. People hurried through the little street that always smelled of frying fish. Now and then a stork swooped low, dragging his sticklike legs below him. The small gramophones scraped day and night behind the walls of the shop where young Amar worked and lived. There were few spots in the city where the snow was ever cleared away, and this was not one of them. So it gathered all through the winter months, piling up in front of the shop doors. But now it was late winter; the sun was warmer. Spring was on the way, to confuse the heart and melt the snow. Amar, being alone in the world, decided it was time to visit a neighboring city where his father had once told him some cousins lived. Early in the morning he went to the bus station. It was still dark, and the empty bus came in while he was drinking hot coffee. The road wound through the mountains all the way. When he arrived in the other city it was already dark. Here the snow was even deeper in the streets, and it was colder. Because he had not wanted to, Amar had not foreseen this, and it annoyed him to be forced to wrap his burnous closely about him as he left the bus station. It was an unfriendly town; he could tell that immediately. Men walked with their heads bent forward, and if they brushed against a passer-by they did not so much as look up. Excepting the principal street, which had an arclight every few meters, there seemed to be no other illumination, and the alleys that led off on either side lay in utter blackness; the white-clad figures that turned into them disappeared straightway. "A bad town," said Amar under his breath. He felt proud to be coming from a better and larger city, but his pleasure was mingled with anxiety about the night to be passed in this inimical place. He abandoned the idea of trying to find his cousins before morning, and set about looking for a fondouk or a bath where he might sleep until daybreak. Only a short distance ahead the street-lighting system terminated. Beyond, the street appeared to descend sharply and lose itself in darkness. The snow was uniformly deep here, and not cleared away in patches as it had been nearer the bus station. He puckered his lips and blew his breath ahead of him in little clouds of steam. As he passed over into the unlighted district he heard a few languid notes being strummed on an oud. The music came from a doorway on his left. He paused and listened. Someone approached the doorway from the other direction and inquired, apparently of the man with the oud, if it was "too late." "No," the musician answered, and he played several more notes. Amar went over to the door. "Is there still time?" he said. "Yes." He stepped inside the door. There was no light, but he could feel warm air blowing upon his face from the corridor to the right. He walked ahead, letting his hand run along the damp wall beside him. Soon he came into a large dimly lit room with a tile floor. Here and there, at various angles, figures lay asleep, wrapped in gray blankets. In a far corner a group of men, partially dressed, sat about a burning brazier, drinking tea and talking in low tones. Amar slowly approached them, taking care not to step on the sleepers. The air was oppressively warm and moist. "Where is the bath?" said Amar. "Down there," answered one of the men in the group, without even looking up. He indicated the dark corner to his left. And, indeed, now that Amar considered it, it seemed to him that a warm current of air came up from that part of the room. He went in the direction of the dark corner, undressed, and leaving his clothes in a neat pile on a piece of straw matting, walked toward the warmth. He was thinking of the misfortune he had encountered in arriving in this town at nightfall, and he wondered if his clothes would be molested during his absence. He wore his money in a leather pouch which hung on a string about his neck. Feeling vaguely for the purse under his chin, he turned around to look once again at his clothing. No one seemed to have noticed him as he undressed. He went on. It would not do to seem too distrustful. He would be embroiled immediately in a quarrel which could end badly for him. A little boy rushed out of the darkness toward him, calling: "Follow me, Sidi, I shall lead you to the bath." He was extremely dirty and ragged, and looked rather more like a midget than a child. Leading the way, he chattered as they went down the slippery, warm steps in the dark. "You will call for Brahim when you want your tea? You're a stranger. You have much money . . . . " Amar cut him short. "You'll get your coins when you come to wake me in the morning. Not tonight." "But, Sidi! I'm not allowed in the big room. I stay in the doorway and show gentlemen down to the bath. Then I go back to the doorway. I can't wake you." "I'll sleep near the doorway. It's warmer there, in any case." "Lazrag will be angry and terrible things will happen. I'll never get home again, or if I do I might be a bird so my parents will not know me. That's what Lazrag does when he gets angry." "Lazrag?" "It is his place here. You'll see him. He never goes out. If he did the sun would burn him in one second, like a straw in the fire. He would fall down in . . ." The Stories of Paul Bowles . Copyright © by Paul Bowles. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Stories of Paul Bowles by Paul Bowles All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.