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The Sheltering Sky [Reading] ➸ The Sheltering Sky By Paul Bowles – American novelist and short story writer poet translator classical music composer and filmscorer Paul Bowles has lived as an expatriate for than 40 years in the North African nation of Morocco a count American novelist and short story writer poet translator classical music composer and filmscorer Paul Bowles has lived as an expatriate for than years in the North African nation of Morocco a country that reaches into the vast and inhospitable Sahara Desert The desert is itself a character in The Sheltering Sky the most famous of Bowles' books which is about three young The Sheltering PDF/EPUB or Americans of the postwar generation who go on a walkabout into Northern Africa's own arid heart of darkness In the process the veneer of their lives is peeled back under the author's psychological inuiry.

  • Paperback
  • 256 pages
  • The Sheltering Sky
  • Paul Bowles
  • English
  • 16 June 2014
  • 9780141181912

About the Author: Paul Bowles

Jane Bowles He moved to Tangiers permanently in with Auer following him there in There they became fixtures of the American and European expatriate scene their visitors including Truman Capote Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal Bowles continued to live in Tangiers after the death of his wife in Bowles died of heart failure in Tangier on November His ashes The Sheltering PDF/EPUB or were interred near the graves of his parents and grandparents in Lakemont New York.

10 thoughts on “The Sheltering Sky

  1. Jeffrey Keeten Jeffrey Keeten says:

    He did not think of himself as a tourist; he was a traveler The difference is partly one of time he would explain Whereas a tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months the traveler belonging no to one place than to the next moves slowly over periods of years from one part of the earth to anotherBefore meeting Port Moresby I always thought of myself as a traveler but after one particular late night discussion accompanied by inebriation interrupted by a frolic in an exotic bordello conveniently located nearby and then reconvened over tankards of yet alcoholic concoctions he managed to convince me that I was merely a tourist I was at a disadvantage you see I was not independently wealthy I was still building a living for myself I had three women I was seeing all interviewing for a permanent position as my wife So yes I was never able to linger while traveling due to the fact that I always had a pressing need to return to my life to shore up my business interests and to keep my social relationships growing I was without a doubt a tourist Shamefully so Despite knowing this about me Port did stop in one evening to ask me if I wanted to go with them to North Africa I was disappointed that his wife Kit was not with him I guess I might as well confess this now I was in love with Kit It was uite awkward actually A psychologist might make a case that my inability to pick one companion from the available women in my life actually stems from a deep seated belief that eventually Kit would come to her senses divorce Port and fling herself into my arms ”The head is like the sky Always turning around and around inside But very slowly When you think you make it go too fast Then it aches”I don’t really know how it happened I thought I had the inside track I grew up with her I watched the moth morph into a beautiful butterfly We exchanged books and thoughts about those books We hung out together to the detriment of our individual studies We occasionally kissed with something than friendly affection I was on the verge of asking her to marry me when she abruptly disappeared on a whirlwind tour of the world She came back with Port It didn’t take me long to discover that my ship had sailed and Port’s had docked I was always watching analysing him whenever I was around him trying to discover what exactly it was about him that had so uickly convinced Kit that he was the one for her I was shattered than I could ever reveal It was only later that I realized that my life or at least the thought of a life with me was something she would have found horribly confining Port’s attraction was his shiftlessness His lack of roots His avoidance of responsibilities Anytime anything became TOO REAL He moved on to somewhere else His money was a buffer between himself and dealing with any of the tedious expectations that others may have for him He was free I was burdened I was still considering the North Africa trip It would have been a perfect opportunity to spend some time with Kit because invariably Port would disappear on some side trip in search of greater meaning I didn’t say yes right away I’d assumed I’d have than a few minutes to give Port an answer but as usual I underestimated his impulsive nature They left with a fellow named Tunner I had met Tunner only in the most casual sense We’d once occupied the same space at a party of mutual friends I’d logged his presence only because of the way he looked at Kit It was probably much the same way as I looked at her as well I only received one letter from Kit while they were in North Africa She was content to watch the soft unvaried landscape going by To be sure several times it occurred to her that they were not really moving at all that the dune along whose sharp rim they were now traveling was the same dune they had left behind earlier that there was no uestion of going anywhere since they were nowhere And when these sensations came to her they started a slight stirring of a thought ‘Am I Dead?’Needless to say the letter was disconcerting to me It reeked of disassociation and had me wondering if those vast endless horizons of the African desert were beginning to inspire some form of mental illness My worst fears as it turned out were mere childish angst compared to the trials and tribulations she actually suffered I blame Port of course but I also can’t help but blame her as well After all she chose the wrong man The family Kit’s kin came to me and asked me to go fetch her in North Africa They didn’t know anyone else with the connections to Kit or anyone possessing the wherewithal to make the journey I guess a part of me thought this was finally my chance to be with her but seeing the way she looked at me when I reached out to greet her was distressing It was as if I were just part of the background of her lifea chair for instance that doesn’t exist until she has the need to sit ”she tried to break away from him In another minute life would be painful The words were coming back and inside the wrappings of the words there would be thoughts lying there The hot sun would shrivel them; they must be kept inside in the dark”She told me everything on the journey home The death of Port The rape and worse the acceptance of rape She allowed herself to become a possession a man’s plaything For a while she even enjoyed it because she didn’t have to make decisions about anything She traded sex for some semblance of peace She tried a couple of times to crawl into my bunk on the way home but I would only hold her against me trapping her hands when they ventured near my groin She found that particular solace with one of the young sailors or maybe than one I went through all the stages of grief fear anger depression but by the time we arrived in New York I’d finally reached some level of acceptance The last I heard Kit was in New Mexico but by the time a letter would reach her she’d be somewhere else I often wondered late at night with a warm snifter of cognac in my hand and a good book close to hand whether if I’d agreed to go on the trip would Port still be alive and would Kit be a less fractured version of herself If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at

  2. Jim Fonseca Jim Fonseca says:

    “On the Road” in North Africa published eight years before Kerouac’s classic A 30 ish American married couple and a male friend are traveling in the French colonies right after the end of World War II at a time when the US State Department advised people NOT to travel there because of rampant disease and the disintegration of social conditions and of law and order The first half of the book focuses on the husband; the second half on the wife view spoiler He dies of typhoid in a hut in a God forsaken village with no doctor or hospital and she walks away into the night The authorities assume she left him to die hide spoiler

  3. Michael Michael says:

    Hypnotic searing terrifying I first read this when I too was living in North Africa in Egypt to be precise and it utterly shattered me I recognized something of myself and my fellow expats in the thoughtfully self centered and naive travelers depicted here and something of the merciless cruelty of the desert I was never far from The prose style isn't elaborate but it isn't stark either and the best I can describe it is to say that it weaves uite a spell opening a slight yet horrifying window onto the sort of existential dread we all tend to keep at baySeptember 2018 I'm re reading this now and finding it just as mesmerizing There's a certainly brooding almost philosophical uality to the prose that perfectly matches the impersonal landscapeThen there's the sky What lies beyond? What blackness resides just on the other side? The novel explores this theme relentlessly On the one hand the sheltering sky is the thin veneer of civilization that Westerners have used to convince themselves of the orderliness of human affairs not to mention their own superiority On the other hand the sheltering sky is every self delusion humans employ to keep themselves from the horrors of an indifferent universe The book gradually strips away these veneers these self delusions until the raw facts of existence themselves are exposed It's not pretty but it's uite a cathartic journey into the abyss In a way this book reminds me perhaps strangely of Moby Dick where Melville also explores the theme of self delusion how necessary self delusion is to our basic sanity but how horribly it can lead us astray

  4. Steven Godin Steven Godin says:

    This has destroyed me an utterly devastating work of immense power where the frailties of life both physically and emotionally are pushed to the very limits in a hostile dangerous and unforgiving landHaving settled in Tangier in the late 40's Paul Bowles uses his knowledge and experiences of French North Africa to startling effect American couple Kit and Port Moresby have a marriage that is disintegrating and feel a trip abroad could help repair their relationship so to avoid a ravaged Europe following the second world war decide to travel through Algeria with their friend Tunner in tow who clearly has some strong feelings for the beautiful Kit things were never going to work out as hoped There are Train journeys and bus rides through stunning but harsh landscapes with deserts valleys and rugged terrain where the unrelenting heat of the sun is a constant factor during the days but it's when staying in the small towns where the reel problems start to arise with general bickering kit's uncomfortable mood towards their surrounding taking hold and Port disappearing into the night as couples go it only seems likely they will drift further apart with no signs of happiness on the horizon Slowly an uneasiness starts to creep in with figures lurking in the shadow's of dark passageways strange looks from locals they can never be certain about with fly's buzzing dogs barking small children crying there is a building paranoia and Paul Bowles does make everything out in a stark desolate but realistic way similar to say Cormac Mcarthy so if your looking for joy it does not exist here as there were a few passages of writing in particular uite early on of such bleakness I had to go over them again as just couldn't believe my eyes so he does not exactly portray a place where one would wish to hang around for too long While the first half reads like a travel novel this would only go on to set the scene for when events take a turn into something of almost unbearable tensions that has uite frankly left me shattered

  5. Vessey Vessey says:

    SPOILERS “Death is always on the way but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much But because we don’t know we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well Yet everything happens only a certain number of times and a very small number really How many times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times Perhaps not even that How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty And yet it all seems limitless” The world is filled with sorrow and adventures When home we long to be somewhere else When we are somewhere else we long to be home But what about those who have no home who belong everywhere and nowhere? Port Morseby is such a man He is a man of many lands He doesn’t stay faithful to any place not even to his wife Nor does she stay faithful to him We see their marriage laid bare before us a fragile thing that strangely in the end falls apart not because of the distance between them and all the third parties involved but because his life is cut short by a disease It is not his passion for other women that unties the knot but his passion for the world Port Morseby is a traveler He did not think of himself as a tourist; he was a traveler The difference is partly one of time he would explain Whereas a tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months the traveler belonging no to one place than to the next moves slowly over periods of years from one part of the earth to another It is books like this one that make you realize how vast and how small at the same time the world is Our troubles follow us wherever we go And there is always I read once in a book that our problems are like naughty children Let them out and they inevitably come back with friends He moves from one place to another with the ease a chameleon changes its colours but his soul is transfixed “If he had not the energy to ascertain his position in time and space he also lacked the desire He was somewhere he had come back through vast regions from nowhere; there was the certitude of an infinite sadness at the core of his consciousness but the sadness was reassuring because it alone was familiarThere’s no reason to be afraid but I am Sometimes I’m not here Then I’m far away and all alone No one could ever get there It’s too far And there I’m alone So alone I can’t even remember the idea of not being alone I can’t even think what it would be like for there to be someone else in the world When I’m there I can’t remember being here; I’m just afraid But here I can remember being there No world is vast enough to heal a restless soul The world is only as big as we let it be There is no sheltering sky The landscape was there and than ever he felt he could not reach it The rocks and the sky were everywhere ready to absolve him but as always he carried the obstacle within him He would have said that as he looked at them they ceased being themselves that in the act of passing into his consciousness they became impure It was slight consolation to be able to say to himself “I am stronger than they” Port’s wife Kit albeit lacking her husband’s adventurous spirit to me is an even vivid and memorable character albeit as tragic Wherever her husband goes she follows but only out of sense of loyalty A loyalty she preserves even in her moments of intimacy with their mutual friend Tunner It is her soul’s desire to please him and find a path to him Maybe part of her failure to do so is due to the fact that she does not know where she comes from Not only that she lacks her husband’s impetuousness but she struggles to preserve even a relative amount of self confidence She is afraid to be herself she is afraid to take responsibility to make a choice to be alive She once had thought that if he should die before she did she would not really believe he was dead but rather that he had gone back inside himself and that he never would be conscious of her again; that it would be she who would have ceased to exist She would be the one who had entered partially into the realm of death while he would go on an anguish inside her a door left unopened a chance irretrievably lost Unfortunately her prediction comes true She is captured physically and emotionally She accepts what comes to her afterwars she even manages to persuade herself that she enjoys it As I told a GR friend recently sometimes we tend to accept something persuade ourselves that it is natural that we love it because it is easier than accepting the status of a victim the reality of who or what we have become Here is what I told my friend Jeffrey as soon as I finished the book “We all long for the comfort of not having to deal with responsibility and guilt not to have to worry and constantly think things through and make choices But what happens to her shows the price we sometimes pay for such “freedom” And even if we do happen to luck out and turn out into the hands of a reliable person who wouldn’t take advantage of us it would still not be right laying all the responsibility on someone else It might be hard to constantly make choices but it is those choices that make us who we are”The passage I open my review with the fact that Port realizes that Kit is the most important thing for him only on his deathbed the fact that she sees his death as chance irretrievably lost and Tunner's realization that Port had been his best friend only when he is already gone make me think about the often repeated saying that we tend to take things and people for granted and we realize their true value only when it's already too late I had always thought So what? I need to spend every waking minute being on the edge? Why should my just enjoying what I've got without thinking all the time of everything that might go wrong and the end of it all mean that I don't appreciate it? It was only after reading this book that dawned on me that it is not about that It is about making sure that you treat yourself and those around you the right way that you end up with as little regrest as possible Because as Port says how many times will you watch the full moon rise?Despite my use of the words adventure and adventurous this isn’t an adventure book it isn’t even really about travelling It is a book about two people being pushed to their limits They fail The journey does not have a happy ending Kit faces challenges she cannot overcome She is broken and defeated But she is alive And as long as there is life there is hope Read count 1

  6. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    “How fragile we are under the sheltering sky Behind the sheltering sky is a vast dark universe and we're just so small” ― Paul Bowles The Sheltering SkyPaul Bowles masterpiece reminds me of some alternate trippy version of Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night but instead we see the other side of the Mediterranean Tangier and the deserts of North Africa take the place of the South of France A different love triangle exposes different forms of loneliness madness love and existential expatsThe thing I love about Bowles is he brings a composer's mind to writing His novel isn't propelled forward by a strong plot although it has plot or attractive characters none of the characters are very attractive but the music of his language alone pushes and pulls tugs and compels the reader page after page It felt very much like I was floating limp and languid in Bowles prose as his hypnotic sentences washed over me and drifted me slowly toward the inevitable endMost days I don't feel a real need to read a book twice I might need to make an exception for 'The Sheltering Sky'

  7. Lara Messersmith-Glavin Lara Messersmith-Glavin says:

    Each man's destiny is personal only inso as it may resemble what is already in his memoryThis uote is from Eduardo Mallea and it begins The Sheltering Sky with that strange act of framing that so many authors employ using the words of others to summarize or introduce the feelings that they are about to try to invoke in their readers Above this uote is another phrase Tea in the Sahara a chapter title now familiar but difficult to place This was taken by none other than the band The Police to introduce their own work a song of the same name that recreates a story from The Sheltering Sky It's an interesting little web and indicative I think of the kind of impact that this book seems to have on people or at least on those who love itI did strange things because of this book I bought leather bound antiue tomes written by TE Lawrence and read them to a friend while wrapped in blankets and candlelight hiding from a snowstorm which we both pretended was sand and not ice I became obsessed with the notions of breath and spirit that are espoused by the Touareg people of the Sahara desert I planned films I devoured the works of Isabelle Eberhardt an early pioneer of female gender bending and exotic adventure And finally I bought a one way ticket to Morocco to see Mr Bowles himselfWhat happened after that is a long story and a large part of my psychic history Bowles died three days before I arrived although Fate did land me at his wake and I became friends with many of his most notably the famous Moroccan novelist Mohammed Choukri I also ended up living in North Africa for about two years and spending a good deal of time in the desert undergoing indeed what Bowles translates as the baptism of solitudeThis is a long winded way of saying that there is something special in this book something that has the ability to get into you and never let you go It makes you do things it shakes you up and reminds you of emotions and fears that you had forgotten to give names to And as the Mallea uote suggests this book does nothing to you that you haven't already in some way done to yourself or brings out nothing that wasn't already there some other wilder experience some other collision with the real and the you that you have forgotten or think you have lostFor those who have watched or loved the film adaptation I cannot speak to it as I've never been able to bring myself to see it I am not a big fan of Bertolucci's work although he does do some interesting things with silence Bowles' comment on the film was something to the effect of How can you make a movie when all the action takes place inside people's heads?

  8. Julie Julie says:

    The story opens with a young married couple and an attractive male companion on an adventurous rendezvous in Northern AfricaOooooh how scintillating how very very scintillating Starry skies the soft curves of the sensuous desert in the backdrop Within just a few pages I had cast the movie My film version of this story was going to star Ralph Fiennes as English Patient Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare and well naturally me I had already decided that if one of the Fiennes brothers wasn't available Colin Firth as Darcy or Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn would serve as adeuate replacements Better yet let's just add them to the plotBut even though this story takes place in French Africa and there is a fantastic French word available to describe these complicated gatherings of three I have gotten myself into potential hot water with my husband all over nothing in this review NothingBecause ain't NOTHING scintillating happening here And not only is nothing scintillating happening a whole lot of sinister is Sinister and sick and stressful oh so stressfulAnd what else? Let's see a potentially incestuous criminal mother son team Lice bedbugs thieves A writer who refers to all women in his story as girls and characters who I honestly hate Let me repeat that last part Characters who I honestly hate Characters who talk like thisWife What's the unit of exchange in this different world of yours?Husband The tearWife It isn't fair some people have to work very hard for a tear Others can have them just for the thinkingHusband What system of exchange is fair? You think the uantity of pleasure the degree of suffering is constant among all men? It somehow all comes out in the end? You think that? If it comes out even it's only because the final sum is zeroOh wah wah wah You poor babies You poor spoiled babies I could not stomach the husband's relentless fear of death and penchant for whining nor the wife's lack of color or passion for anything These characters are so damned spoiled so uintessentially the “ugly Americans” they can't even see past their own noses that they live the most enchanted and fantastical lives As a reader it is hard to suffer with or relate to any of them especially when they feel damned whenever their cocktails arrive without ice ahem in the desertI swear to you I hated every character in this book Mon dieu I HATED them all I wanted every one of them to die slow and painful deaths out on the white sand and then have their eyes pecked clean by vultures I also did not enjoy reading this It was not a pleasurable read for meSo why would I give it five stars?Because seriously the writing is FANTASTIC

  9. Perry Perry says:

    The One Book I Can Truly Say Made Me Feel as if I was Hypnotized “How fragile we are under the sheltering sky Behind it is a vast dark universe and we're just so small”I was absolutely hypnotized by Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky a lush and lyrical novel following a married couple and their male friend they're travelers they say not tourists as they wonder aimlessly through the desolation and harshness of the cities and deserts of North Africa shortly after WW IIWithin the novel is an affecting allegorical tale of 3 sisters who waited for a prince to join them for tea in the Sahara This meta tale has itself inspired numerous artworks including the song Tea in the Sahara by The PoliceMy sisters and I | Have this wish before we dieAnd it may sound strange | As if our minds are derangedPlease don't ask us why | Beneath the sheltering skyWe have this strange obsession You have the means in your possessionWe want our tea in the Sahara with youG Sting Sumner Tea in the Sahara 1983The tale concludes“Many days later another caravan was passing and a man saw something on top of the highest dune And when they went up they found the girls there lying the same way as when they had gone to sleep And all three of the glasses' he held up his own little tea glass 'were full of sand That was how they had their tea in the Sahara”I intend to read this novel again solely to take the hypnotic journey Who would ever need hallucinatory drugs with a library card key to such a novel in which an author will entrance you with words alone from beyond the grave? Seriously It's that goodIn short The Sheltering Sky is the apotheosis of hypnotic transference by its poetic language so puissant to a strange and foreign destination of utter alienation but not without hope I try not to exaggerate in my reviews exactly because I need a sort of truth in description for a review of novel like this when I feel a point is significant

  10. Robin Robin says:

    Sensual Existentialism in the Sahara 45 stars Someone once had said to her that the sky hides the night behind it shelters the person beneath from the horror that lies aboveMarried couple Port and Kit Moresby in a physically and emotionally distant relationship are traveling through northern Africa with their friend Tunner Rejecting America and Europe in post WWII disgust these travellers not tourists Port is adamant about the difference hope to find meaning in the mystery of the SaharaIt doesn't take long for something of a love triangle to form or a love rectangle if we're going to count Port's nightly wanderings It also doesn't take long for the mood of the inscrutable desert to permeate the travellers It shows how weak the bonds of marriage friendship and sanity are as the swirling dunes undo these societal ties with their mesmerizing magic The descent leaves each person to their own limited devices an internal struggle and terrifying defeat Death is always on the way but the fact that you don't know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life It's that terrible precision that we hate so much But because we don't know we get to think of life as an inexhaustible wellThe characters struggle with their connections with each other fighting an urge to repair love with an eual urge to keep at arm's length Truly separate desolately alone blind attempts at physical closeness punctuate the book lending it a sensuality with an edge Now that he owned her completely there was a new savageness a kind of angry abandon in his manner The bed was a wild sea she lay at the mercy of its violence and chaos as the heavy waves toppled upon her from above Why at the height of the storm did two drowning hands press themselves tighter and tighter about her throat? Tighter until even the huge grey music of the sea was covered by a greater darker noise the roar of nothingness the spirit hears as it approaches the abyss and leans overThis wouldn't be a complete review if I didn't use the descriptor 'hypnotic' when referring to Paul Bowles' writing While the plot isn't particularly strong the mood and atmosphere is engulfing and drenches every word every buzzing fly every bewildered expression every stolen kiss He spins his readers around and pulls us helplessly along on this existential journey in the desert You're never humanity; you're only your own poor hopelessly isolated self

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