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 shortly 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 has translated several works related to North African culture and geography, and has 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 the late 1940s made Tangier, Morocco, their permanent home. Major figures in the world of letters and the arts and international society frequently visited them there. Jane Bowles died in 1973, and 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.
The Paul Bowles collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, editorial matter, periodicals, ephemera, and miscellaneous material acquired from a variety of sources. The collection is added to periodically and complements the Paul Bowles papers (MSS 163) as well as several other manuscript collections related to Paul Bowles at the University of Delaware Library.
Series I. Correspondence, 1934-1985, consists primarily of correspondence sent by Paul Bowles to various authors, literary figures, and publishers. The series is further divided into seven subseries arranged by recipient. While the majority of the letters in this series were originally composed by Bowles, the seven letters housed in Series I.E. Mohammed Mrabet to Irving Stettner, were originally penned by Mrabet and then transcribed and translated by Bowles.
The correspondence, editorial matter, manuscripts, and other items housed within Series II. Peter Owen, Ltd., 1967-1984, pertain to Bowles's relationship with Peter Owen, Ltd., the firm that served as the primary publisher of Bowles's books in England. The series is divided into three subseries, including the following: Series II.A. Correspondence, 1976-1984, Series II.B. Points in Time , 1981-1982, and Series II.C. Miscellany, 1967-1984. The majority of the correspondence in Series II.A. was written by Bowles. Additional letters were written by employees of Peter Owen, Ltd., and are often accompanied by editorial or publicity materials relating to a specific publication. Series II.B. contains correspondence, manuscripts, editorial matter, and galley proofs pertaining to the publication of Bowles's Points in Time (London: Peter Owen, 1982). Finally, Series II.C. contains carbons of letters, lists of corrections, publicity materials, and other items related to the Peter Owen, Ltd. publications of three of Bowles's book projects, including Bowles's Pages from Cold Point (1968), and his translations of Mohammed Mrabet's The Lemon (1969) and Mụhammad Shukrī's For Bread Alone (1974).
Several of Bowles's manuscripts are housed within Series III. The series is divided into six subseries arranged by work. Five of the works represented were transcribed and translated by Bowles, while the sixth was written by Bowles. The subseries include the following: Series III.A. Mohammed Mrabet, The Big Mirror , circa 1976, Series III.B. Mohamed Choukri, For Bread Alone , circa 1972-1979, Series III.C. Things Gone and Things Still Here , 1977, Series III.D. Mohamed Choukri Tennessee Williams in Tangier , 1979, III.E. Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Xquic (Dust on Her Tongue) , 1988, and Series III.F. Rodrigo Rey Rosa, The Pelcari Project , 1990.
Series IV. Books and periodicals, 1929-2002, includes published books and periodicals by or about Paul Bowles. Notable within this series are four issues of the University of Richmond Messenger (F13A-D) from 1930 that contain four early poems and three translations by Bowles. Also housed within this series are seventeen issues of the Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler's surrealist magazine View (F16-32), spanning the period June 1941 through Spring 1947.
The four posters housed in Series V. Posters, circa 1990-1995, were printed to promote four different Bowles-related projects, including the release of the 1990 Vintage edition of Bowles's The Sheltering Sky , the 1990 Warner Brothers film adaptation of The Sheltering Sky directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, the 1995 inaugural concert of the Eos ensemble, and the 1990 release of Un thé au Sahara, the French version of the film adaptation of The Sheltering Sky.Series VI.-X. preserve a variety of materials related to Bowles's work, personal life, and legacy. Examples of materials housed in Series VI. Ephemera, include numerous programs and publicity materials from events celebrating Bowles's work, press kits, clippings, and publications. Series VII. Photographs, consists of several photographs of Paul and Jane Bowles’s gravesites, as well as a photograph by Cherie Nutting. Series VIII. Artwork, comprises drawings and paintings by Mohammed Mrabet, Mohamed Hamri, and Ahmed Yacoubi. Series IX. Artifacts and realia, contains several pieces of personal realia, including a pair of tinted eyeglasses belonging to Bowles, a silk necktie which was given to Bowles by Virginia Spencer Carr. Series X. Media, comprises video documentaries related to and interviews with Paul Bowles. This series also includes a rare sound recording of Bowles’s score for the 1944 film Congo, of which digital files are also available in the Special Collections Reading Room at the University of Delaware Library.