Reconsidering Paul Bowles
An Essayby Tobias Wolff
In 1949 Paul Bowles published a novel called The Sheltering Sky. It was one of the most original, even visionary, works of fiction to appear in the twentieth century.
The main actors, Port Moresby and his wife, Kit, are refugees of a sort peculiar to our age: affluent drifters dispossessed spiritually rather than materially, severed from the possibility of believing that they can be safe anywhere or, consequently, be anywhere at home. In the course of their wanderings they visit North Africa, and this proves a mistake. In the silent emptiness of desert and sky, the knowledge of their absolute isolation from other people comes upon them so violently that it subverts their belief in their own reality and in the reality of their connection to each other.