“Travels: Collected Writings, 1950-1993,” by Paul Bowles
By Dennis Drabelle,
Collected Writings, 1950-1993
By Paul Bowles Ecco. 508 pp. Paperback, $16.99
As anyone familiar with the career of American novelist and composer Paul Bowles (1910-1999) might expect, many of these travel pieces center on Morocco, the country he came to love after moving there in the late 1940s. His sensitivity to the ways of his newfound compatriots comes across in a 1950 piece on Fez, originally published in Holiday magazine.
In one amusing passage, Bowles shows how nuanced everyday conversation can be for a people who excel in it. If your partner in gab says, “We want to be Americans. It is better to be American than Moroccan,” don’t contradict him, Bowles advises. “You must agree briefly, and thank him, because if you protest publicly you will show him that you actually believe he means what he says, which of course is impossible, and you will prove yourself extremely ill-bred.” Later in the piece (which, mind you, was first published in a popular American magazine), an incident that Bowles mentions gives the lie to the notion that post-World-War-II America was a wholly uptight country. The writer talks at some length about ingesting hashish and being accompanied by visions as he makes his convoluted way home for the night.
— Dennis Drabelle