Paul Frederic Bowles was born on December the Thirtieth 1910 in New York, where he studied composition with Aaron Copland.Bought up in a cultured middle-class upbringing, he developed a talent for music and writing. In 1931 he met Gertrude Stein (whom he had adored since his teenage years) and other iconographic figures in Paris and visited Morocco for the first time, where he fell in love with its nebulousness. Best known today for his brilliant novels 'The Sheltering Sky', 'The Spider's House' and 'Let it all come down'. His books were often full of violent events and tales of psychological collapse, written in a detached and elegant style.His travel writings are essential reading.
In 1938 he married Jane Auer herself a gifted novelist and playwright and shortly after the Second World War they settled in Tangier, Morocco.
A keen experimenter, his life an eternal thirst for knowing. He was one of the first purveyors of what is now called World Music, he was particularly entranced by indigeneous Moroccan tribal music. A brilliant mind, intense to the point of reclusiveness, his eyes were lucky enough to gaze upon many of the greats of the twentieth century avant garde.
A keen devotee and user of Kif, the fine leaves at the base of the flowers of the common hemp plant and mescalin, they both allowed him to open his mind, and despite his legendary reclusiveness and high drug use wrote and wrote and wrote.His life spent on the boundaries and on the edge. His autobiography ' Without Stopping' was of particular interest because of what it did not reveal.
He fell in love with Morocco and stayed there for the rest of his life until he died by now like a mysterious old man of the mountain on November 18th , 1999 aged 88.
His collected letters 'In Touch'; Harper Collins 1994, are well worth searching for some of his insights into the mad, mystic space he enveloped himsrlf in.
A fine portrait writer, the following is on one of my favourite writers and heroes William Burroughs. Their first meeting was not a success but gradually the mystification of their senses bought them together and they became great friends. It's quite enjoyable so I thought I'd share it. Two genuine outsiders , two tourists at home who found bridges that became roots, As I've said before, no borders are necessary, just some kind of understanding.
'I first saw Bill Burroughs in 1953, passing along a back street of Tangier in the rain. He was on H at the time, and he didn't look very fit.
The next year he came to see me about some detail in his contract for Junky, in which he said he had been taken. I had paratyphoid and wasn't vey helpful. It wasn't until the winter of 1955-56 that we became friends and started to see each other regularly. Naturally I had been told about him: how he practiced shooting in his room down in the Medina, and all the rest of the legend. When I got to know him I realized the legend existed in spite of him and not because of him: he didn't give a damn about it.
His life had no visible organization about it, but knowing he was an addictive type he had chosen that way of giving himself an automatic interior discipline which was far more rigorous than any he could have imposed upon himself objectively. He lived in a damp little room whose single door opened onto the garden of the Hotel Villa Muniriya. One wall of the room, his shooting gallery , was pockmarked with bullet holes. Another wall was completely covered with snapshots, most of which he had taken on a trip to the headwaters of the Amazon. I liked to hear about that voyage, and always got him to talk lengthily about it.
Going there had been part of the self-imposed discipline, since the only reason he had gone was to try the effects of a local drug called Yage, a concoction made by the Indians of the region, and which must be taken on the spot since its efficacy vanishes within a few hours after it is brewed. The point about Yage is that it is, more than any other , a group drug, its particular property being the facilitation of mental telepathy and emotional empathy among those who have taken it. He insisted that with it communication was possible with the Indians, although it made him violently ill.
During the two years that I saw Bill regularly in Tangiers, he took only kif,majoun and alcohol. But he managed to take vast amounts of all three. The litter on his desk and under it, on the floor was chaotic,but it cosisted only of pages of 'Naked Lunch' at which he was constantly working. When he read aloud from it, at random (any sheet of paper he happened to grab would do) he laughed a good deal, as well he might, since it is very funny, but from reading he would suddenly (the paper still in hand) go into a bitter conversational attack upon whatever sapect of life had prompted the passage he had just read. The best thing about Bill Burroughs is that he always makes sense and he is always humorous, even at his most vitriolic. At any point of the night or day you might happen to catch him, you will always find that whole machine is going full blast, and that means that he is laughing or about to laugh.
He spends more money on food than most of us Tangerines, I've noticed; perhaps he has more to spend - I don't know - but the fact remains that he insists om eating well, which is part of his insistence on living just as he likes at all times. (Gertrude Stein would have called him sel-indulgent; he certainly is not ever hampered by even a shadow of the feeling of guilt, ever.)He goes on his way enjoying wven his own misfortunes. I've never heard him mention an experience that made him more than temporarily happy. At the Hotel Muniriya he has a Reich orgone box in which he used to sit doubled up, smoking kif. I believe he made it himself. He had a little stove in his room over which he cooked his own hashish candy, of which he was very proud, and which he distributed to anyone who was interested.
Th months that Allen Ginsberg was here in Tangier, he and Bill used to sit around half the night having endless fights about literature and aesthetics. It was always Bill who attacked the intellect from all sides, which I suspect was exactly what Allen wanted to hear. Surely it was worth hearing, and worth watching too, as Bill stumbled from one side of the room to another, shouting in his cowboy voice, stirring his drink around and around without stopping, with his index ad middle finger, and with two or three Kif cigarettes lighted simultaneously but lying in different ashtrays which he visited on his way around the room.'
Burroughs in Tangier (by Paul Bowles): (Big Table 2 9op cit);
Parkinson, T. (op cit)
The Burroughs File; City Lights,1984.