University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

PAUL BOWLES, 1910 - 1999


Because his fiction was often based in exotic locales where he personally had traveled, and with strong character resemblances to himself and his wife, such as Port and Kit Moresby in The Sheltering Sky, Bowles was often asked if his writing was autobiographical. In a 1982 interview with David Seidner, Bowles replied, "No. No. I mean one writes what one writes, one doesn't decide what to write, one writes what comes out. What ever one writes is in a sense autobiographical, of course. Not factually so, but poetically so." On other occasions, Bowles made reference to "memory writing," and experiments with automatic writing, sometimes using the momentum of kif-induced concentration; so the importance of subconsciously personal details is an important element in his fiction.

In the Red Room

But Paul Bowles also produced more deliberate and traditional forms of autobiographical or life writing, including diaries, letters, conversations and interviews, essays, and photographic collections. Bowles's travel writing, self-revealing in observations and opinions, is extensive enough that it is presented separately in this exhibition and catalog.

William S. Burroughs suggested, only partially in jest, that Bowles's 1972 autobiography Without Stopping should have been titled "Without Telling." It is a frenetic account of world travels over four decades, filled with names of prominent musicians, writers, theater folk, and famous people in general. Bowles claimed the work was written hurriedly, to reach the publisher's deadline, after spending nearly a year reconstructing the events and voyages of his life. Bowles further claimed that he never would have undertaken the project had he not needed the money to care for Jane Bowles, who was hospitalized in Spain. The most personal, and frankly emotional, part of the book is the opening few chapters about Bowles's relationship with his parents and his childhood memories. Bowles's personal reserve makes only more valuable the variant genres of his life writing in the collections at the University of Delaware Library: the diaries, the letters, and especially the numerous conversations and interviews with scholars, journalists, documentary filmmakers, musicologists, and others who pursued him in the 1980s and 1990s are sources that capture incidental details and opinions which reveal a bit more of the man.

The 1999 addition to the Paul Bowles papers yielded a small pocket notebook dating from Bowles's visit to Thailand in 1966. The notebook contains a draft of the first two paragraphs from Without Stopping, a memory from the age of four in which Bowles describes a precise, certain consciousness of who he was, in time and place. It is an interesting association of a word ("mug") and a sound (the clock striking four) and a sense of place (away from his home, at his uncle's house), a striking memory of detached, objective realization with characteristics often applied to the work of the future composer and author.


Life Writing: Items in the Exhibition

Paul Bowles -- Autobiografia

100. Tantos caminhos: Autobiografia de Paul Bowles. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1994.

99a. "Kneeling on a chair and clutching the gilded top rung of the back ... ," in an autograph pocket notebook, [1966], ca. 200 pp.
As evidenced by its contents, Bowles recycled this 1966 pocket datebook that he picked up in his travels to Thailand. It contains diary notes, notes for scenes from "The Garden," and miscellaneous drafts of prose, including the opening passage of Without Stopping: an Autobiography (1972).

99b. [Without Stopping]. Typescript (copy) and typescript manuscript with autograph revisions in Bowles's hand, n.d., ca. 400 pp.

100. Tantos caminhos: Autobiografia de Paul Bowles. Tradução Hildegard Feist. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1994.
This copy of the first Portuguese translation of Without Stopping is from the library of Paul Bowles.

101. "An Open Letter to Those Interested in Surviving the Coming Decade." Typescript with extensive autograph additions and revisions, [1979], 5 pp.
This is the original manuscript of this "letter," first published in Le Journal de Tanger (Tangier, January

12, 1980), and later in Antaeus 38 (Summer 1980), pp. 170-173.

102a. "In the Red Room." Typescript photocopy copy with the author's extensive autograph corrections, n.d., 12 pp.

102b. "In the Red Room." Typescript with minor autograph corrections, n.d., 12 pp.
The first draft of this story, about a young man's visit from his parents in Sri Lanka, has been extensively

revised as Bowles changed the narrative voice from third person for the main character Gil to first person "I," dropping all pretense that the story was not about him and his own parents' visit to his home at Taprobane, off the coast of Sri Lanka, in Weligama Bay.

102c. "Taprobane," photograph by Eberhard Hahne, 1989.

102d. In the Red Room. Los Angeles, Calif.: Sylvester & Orphanos, 1981.
This is number 102 of 300 copies signed by the author.


102c. "Taprobane," photograph by Eberhard Hahne, 1989.

103. Two Years Beside the Strait: Tangier Journal, 1987-1989. London: Peter Owen, 1990. Publisher's publicity sheet laid in.

My Tangier

106. My Tangier, photographs
by Daniel Blaufuks,
text by Paul Bowles.
Lisboa: Difusão Cultural, 1991.

104. Days: Tangier Journal, 1987-1989. New York: Ecco Press, [1991].
In the first American edition of his short journal, Bowles included a preface that explained the origin of the work in a contribution for Daniel Halpern for a special issue of Antaeus dedicated to diaries.

105a. Días. Typed manuscript (copy), n.d., 60 pp., with typed letter signed, Mario Lacruz to Paul Bowles, March 31, 1993, 1 p.

105b. "Paul Bowles with ensemble of Master Musicians of Jajouka," photograph by Suomi La Valle, [August 1989].
This photograph was used on the cover of Días y Viajes as well as Days.

105c. Días y Viajes. Traducción de Días de Ana M. de la Fuente; traducción de Viajes de Rodrigo Rey Rosa. Barcelona: Editorial Seix Barral, [1993].
Rey Rosa's collected translations of Bowles's "Travels," pieces written between 1948 and 1966 in various places from Madiera to Ceylon to Kenya, were unique to this volume and not available in English. This copy is from the library of Paul Bowles.

106. My Tangier, photographs by Daniel Blaufuks, text by Paul Bowles. Lisboa: Difusão Cultural, 1991.
According to the colophon, this Portuguese translation by António Costa was "published ... on the occasion of the exhibition 'My Tangier' by David Blaufuks/Paul Bowles ... from 11th September to 12th October 1991."

107. Conversations with Paul Bowles, edited by Gena Dagel Caponi. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993.

Caponi's collected Bowles interviews span the dates 1952 to<1990, representing engaging conversations with the composer/author conducted by reviewers and critics, editors, documentary filmmakers, journalists, students, scholars, and friends.

108a. In Touch: the Letters of Paul Bowles. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993. Uncorrected proof. Cover stamped "Unrevised uncorrected proofs, Jan. 1994."

108b. In Touch: the Letters of Paul Bowles, edited by Jeffrey Miller. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [1994].
This copy is number 215 of an edition 250 copies signed by Paul Bowles.

109. Paul Bowles Photographs: How Could I Send a Picture into the Desert?, edited by Simon Bischoff in collaboration with the Swiss Foundation for Photography. Zurich and New York: Scalo Publishers, 1994.
Documenting his travels, his friends, and his life in Tangier, Bowles's photographs are supplemented by biographical interviews with Simon Bischoff.

110. "Ira Cohen Conversation with Paul Bowles - Minbad Sinbad - Didier Devillez Editeur."

In Touch

108a. In Touch: the Letters of Paul Bowles. New York:
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993. Uncorrected proof.

Bound galley proof, "14/05/1997," 99 pp.
This French-language text from Belgian publisher Didier Devillez Éditeur is from a 1964 conversation between Ira Cohen and Paul Bowles. Cohen lived in Tangier in the early 1960s, where he published the single issue of Gnaoua.

Dear Paul Dear Ned endpapers

111a. Dear Paul, Dear Ned: the Correspondence of Paul Bowles and Ned Rorem. [North Pomfret, Vt.]: Elysium Press, 1997

Dear Paul Dear Ned cover.

111a. Dear Paul, Dear Ned: the Correspondence of Paul Bowles and Ned Rorem. [North Pomfret, Vt.]: Elysium Press, 1997.

111b. Ned Rorem to Paul Bowles, typed letter signed, June 20, 1997.
Fellow composer, writer, and music critic Ned Rorem first met Bowles while traveling in Mexico in 1941. Rorem's letter to Bowles reacts to the recent publication of their collected correspondence.

112. Desultory Correspondence = Sporadische Korrespondenz: an Interview with Paul Bowles on Gertrude Stein, by Florian Vetsch, with photographs by Vittorio Santoro. Zurich: Memory/Cage Editions, 1997. Bilingual edition.
This copy is number 7 of an edition limited to 15 numbered copies signed by Paul Bowles. Vetsch's interview with Bowles is accompanied by printings of "Spire song," a Bowles poem that was first published in transition in 1929, and a short Stein article, "My last about money." Bowles had written a letter to Stein in disagreement with a series of articles
she had published in 1936 in The Saturday Evening Post about

money and the Roosevelt administration. Stein responded in yet another published article, not naming Bowles, but identifying him as a young man, representative of "The young people in American [who] do not want to have to think for themselves, they want a leader who will think for them." Bowles never saw Stein after that exchange.


| Introduction | Poetry | Music | Novels | Short Stories | Translations | Travel Writing |

Return to Paul Bowles Source Page

Return to List of Exhibitions at the University of Delaware Library

for reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact:
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229
Back to the UD Special Collections Home Page

This page is maintained by Special Collections

Last modified: 12/21/10
  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014