Paul Bowles letters to Art Gibney

Biographical and Historical Notes

Paul Bowles (1910-1999)

The American composer and author Paul Frederic Bowles was born in New York City on December 30, 1910. In 1938, Paul Bowles married the aspiring writer Jane Auer. Inspired by his wife's success and her dedication to writing, Bowles began his own career as an author, eventually surpassing his already successful reputation as a composer. After the 1940s, he produced numerous works of fiction, essays, travel writing, poems, autobiographical pieces, and other works.


Miller, Jeffrey. Paul Bowles: A Descriptive Bibliography. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 1986.


Sawyer-Laucanno, Christopher. An Invisible Spectator: A Biography of Paul Bowles. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989.

Art Gibney

Art Gibney is the author of Skin of Earth, Stories from Nevada's Back Country. Gibney's short fiction has appeared in many literary publications including the International Quarterly, The Crescent Review, Other Voices, ZYZZYVA, and Story Quarterly.


University of Nevada Press. accessed April 2010).

Content Description

Paul Bowles wrote each of these three letters in response to letters he had received from Art Gibney.

These letters answered specific questions posed by Gibney, were all written from Tangier, Morocco, and were accompanied by stamped envelopes.

In the first letter, dated September 9, 1981, Bowles responded to questions concerning whether he was still “alive,” what he was “thinking,” and what his “world view” was. He wrote that he was always thinking the same thing: “which words will best express the thoughts, and how ought they to be arranged?”

The second letter, which Bowles wrote on December 23, 1981, responded to a question regarding employment for teachers of English as a second language in Morocco. Bowles mentioned the American School and the American Language Center and was generally encouraging; though he noted that he had no connections with either institution. He also commented on what he termed "moral fiber" in writing.

In the final letter, dated March 7, 1982, Bowles spoke of his current projects; namely, copying and rewriting songs from the 1930s and 1940s for publication and translating work by Mohammed Mrabet. He also discussed what was "shaping the contemporary literary mode" and his lack of plans to visit the United States.