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Paul Bowles in Tangier: a look at his legacy

Paul Bowles is an American writer forever linked to Morocco, especially Tangier. In this post, we review the most interesting aspects of this stage of his life, which extended for more than half a century until his death. We also mention some of the works and places associated with Paul Bowles in Tangier, so you can feel his legacy during your trip.

Paul Bowles in Tangier: Music and Literature

Paul Bowles was a free spirit, a personality who wished to live without ties and conventionalities. And mid-20th century Tangier allowed him this when the city had the status of an International Zone. Despite its atmosphere progressively changing since Morocco’s independence, the American writer kept his residence here, in love with the local culture and drawn by the exotic and Mediterranean environment he found.

Paul Bowles was not only a writer but also a translator: his deep knowledge of Arabic allowed him to translate into English the main works of significant contemporary authors, such as Ahmed Yacoubi, Larbi Layachi, and Mohamed Choukri. The latter was also a regular at his literary gatherings.

Additionally, he was a musical composer thanks to his training in the field and, above all, his open-mindedness for experimentation and discovering other folk traditions. Therefore, he used his years in Morocco to record traditional music, including Sufi and Sephardic traditions.

Masterpieces Linked to Morocco

Paul Bowles’ significant literary works are written and set in Morocco. Among them all, “The Sheltering Sky,” written in 1949, stands out: in this work, he narrates the journey of an American couple through Morocco, conceived as a way to save their relationship. But the charms and vicissitudes they encounter along the way (which takes them to the desert) bring their relationship to the edge. Precisely for this reason, many consider it a true semi-autobiography, since his relationship with his wife, also a writer Jane Bowles, was not exactly the most conventional.

The impact of this novel became even greater when Bernardo Bertolucci adapted it to cinema in 1990, starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich. The film is notable for its successful cinematography, showcasing both urban and wild Moroccan landscapes that can be part of your own journey.

Other literary works worth mentioning, written in Morocco, are “Let It Come Down” (a thriller set in Tangier) and “The Spider’s House” (set in mid-20th century Fez). Additionally, Paul Bowles’ literary production in Morocco includes small travel chronicles, serving as a social portrait of the country during the last century.

Paul Bowles at the American Legation Museum

Due to his significant role as a link between Arab and American cultures in the international-status Tangier, the American Legation Museum has dedicated a wing to Paul Bowles. It recreates the writer’s work office, along with photographs of his life and musical works he conducted in the country. A showcase with books and a small keyboard with some objects give context to such an evocative space.

So, if you have a particular interest in the work of this writer and musician, you should not miss the most significant places for Paul Bowles in Tangier. Our agency can design a travel program in which this city and this theme have a prominent place, immersing you in the creative universe of this 20th-century genius, still misunderstood by many.

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