The American composer and author Paul Frederick Bowles was born in New York City on December 30, 1910. Bowles was published at age seventeen, abandoned college, and in 1929 began his life of travels with a trip to Paris, where he hoped to establish himself as a poet. Back in New York in 1930, he studied composition with Aaron Copland, whom he also accompanied to Yaddo, Paris, Berlin, and Tangier. With the support of Copland and Virgil Thomson, Bowles found work in New York writing incidental music and scores for ballet and theater. His successful career as a composer took off during the Depression with work for the Federal Theater Project (including music for Orson Welles's Horse Eats Hat) and the Federal Music Project. Bowles became one of the preeminent composers of American theater music, producing works for William Saroyan, Tennessee Williams, and others. In the 1990s, a resurgence of interest in Bowles's music spawned a number of major concerts and performances in the United States and Europe. In addition, a new generation of musicians has released several well received recordings of Bowles's compositions.
In 1938, Paul Bowles married the aspiring writer Jane Auer, who quickly achieved critical acclaim for her first novel, Two Serious Ladies (1943). Inspired by Jane Bowles's success and her dedication to writing, Bowles began his own career as an author, eventually surpassing his already successful reputation as a composer. Beginning in the 1940s, he produced numerous works of fiction, essays, travel writing, poems, autobiographical pieces, and other works. Among Bowles's best known fictional works are the novels The Sheltering Sky (1949), Let It Come Down (1952), The Spider's House (1955), and an early short story collection, The Delicate Prey and Other Stories (1950). A 1989 reprint of The Sheltering Sky and Bernardo Bertolucci's 1990 film version of the novel, starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich, revived international interest in Bowles, the writer.
Bowles is equally known as a prolific translator. He bestowed the title "No Exit" upon Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos and his 1946 translation of that play remains the standard version for English language productions. During the 1940s, Bowles translated the poems and stories of a wide variety of European and Latin American authors. Bowles taped and transcribed from the Moghrebi tales by Mohammed Mrabet and several other Moroccan story tellers; and his translations have broadened readership of Guatemalan author Rodrigo Rey Rosa. Bowles translated several works related to North African culture and geography, and generously introduced and prefaced photographic collections, travel writing, and stories by other authors who share those interests.
Paul and Jane Bowles spent much of their married life traveling throughout the world and in 1947 made Tangier, Morocco, their permanent home. During this time, Paul Bowles was the so-called “dean of American expatriate writers,” and many major figures in the world of letters and the arts frequently visited the Bowleses in Tangier. Jane Bowles died in 1973, and Paul Bowles continued to reside in Tangier until his death on November 18, 1999.
Miller, Jeffrey. Paul Bowles: A Descriptive Bibliography. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 1986.
Sawyer-Lauçanno, Christopher. An Invisible Spectator: A Biography of Paul Bowles. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989.
Davis, Stephen. “Mercury at 80.” The Boston Globe Magazine, March 4, 1990.
Rives Skinker Matthews was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, on March 17, 1907. After graduating from Princeton in 1928, Matthews published several volumes of poetry and prose, including No More Dreams, Greenburgh Mansions of the Misses Masters, and Chryselephantine Fancies. While he was the editor of the Weekly Somerset News, Matthews was indicted for libel after publishing articles in 1943 accusing State Comptroller J. Millard Tawes of misusing gasoline ration coupons. Matthews died in August 1981 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Paul Bowles letters to Rives Matthews consists of two letters written by American writer and composer Paul Bowles to American writer and editor Rives Matthews during the summer of 1972.
In two letters dated July 13 and August 21, 1972, Bowles responded to letters from Matthews regarding mutual acquaintances, and life in Tangier, Morocco, where Bowles resided. In the first letter, Bowles discussed mutual acquaintance Cesare Lloyd, describing his physical and verbal tics. In both letters, Bowles referenced discrepancies in his autobiography, Without Stopping. He also discussed a dispute between Tennessee Williams and "the Baron." In his second letter, Bowles mentioned Gertrude Stein, Marthe Ruspoli, and Ahmed Yacoubi. The letters are typed and autographed by Bowles.