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Collected Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Paul Bowles
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Dec 2009 Penguin Modern Classics

In these hauntingly beautiful stories of abandonment and vengeance, extreme situations lead to disturbing conclusions. A missionary is sent to a place so distant he finds his God has no power there; a husband abandons his wife as they honeymoon in the South American jungle; a splash of water triggers an explosion of violence; and a boy's drug-induced transformation leads to cruelty enjoyed and suffered.

Masterfully written, these are chilling tales from sun-drenched and brutal climes.


Frequently Bought Together

Collected Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) + The Sheltering Sky (Penguin Modern Classics) + Let It Come Down (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price For All Three: 28.39

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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (3 Dec 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014119135X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141191355
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 282,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Born in New York in 1910, Paul Bowles is considered one of the most remarkable American authors of the twentieth century. He studied music with composer Aaron Copland before moving to Tangier, Morocco, with his wife, Jane. His first novel, The Sheltering Sky, was a bestseller in the 1950s and was made into a film by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1990. Bowles's prolific career included many musical compositions, novels, collections of short stories, and books of travel, poetry, and translations. His other novels were The Spider's Nest, Up Above The World and Let It Come Down.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is such a great collection, some of the most unusual stories you'll read. Bowles has a habit of letting his storylines peter out into a kind of purity of vision which can be extremely intense. The effect is often unexpectedly disturbing, and when he writes about these foreign countries his narratives leave very few points of reference for the reader. You end up feeling almost as lost as his protagonists half the time, yet the disorientating effect is all intentional - a great and uncommon experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible writer. 2 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I discovered this author when I stumbled on a copy of The Sheltering Sky,and was knocked out by it.I couldn't believe it had been written in the 1940's. These short stories are just as powerful (and bleak) as the novel. Once you've read a bit of Bowles you can see where a lot of other,later writers got their ideas.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories Par Excellence 3 Feb 2006
Format:Paperback
This book contains some of the greatest short stories I have ever read. Bowles' knack of succinctly capturing the cultural essence of a place is perfectly portrayed in this intriguing collection.
The banality of everyday life is transformed into an exotic maze of mysticism, magic and dare I say it, madness? This book is a must for anyone who appreciates the short story.
The Black Sparrow Press has produced a beautiful item in itself. Buy it!!
Keith Marley UK
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Short story collection, direct and poetic 6 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I love the stories of Paul Bowles. One of the few writers which spins a web of magic around his short stories without overdosing in adjectives. The worlds of bowles are often drawn in pure, brutal, indegenious colours, which you can nearly smell and taste when you read them. Many stories of him play in morocco (or south america), and if you want to learn something of these exciting countries and the culture, this is one of the best sources. It shows how much we can try to feel at home at foreign places and yet seldom succeed. Always in our head,ethoncentristic with friendship as the only real link to the other world. Bowles stories often leave me breathless at the end. They build up so much hope, so much plasticity and leave you nothing when you turn the last page. But even if the aftertaste seems to be a bitter one, you get enchanted, you read the next story, you want more. Then something after ten or fifteen books you can't wait to take the next plane to Africa... In some sense Bowles can be related to the Beat literature. The only thing is that Bowles didn't move on. He stayed in Tanger and his view of the world got much sharper than the one of the other beats. His protagonists still like to travel, they are searching for something, but what they find is beyond their dreams. It is naked realism and so strong that the mind begins to spin... (Look for P.B - Let it come down) LIGHT A CANDLE, READ A SHORT STORY OF THIS MARVELOUS COLLECTION AND WATCH FOR RESULTS...
If the short story "garden" will not enchanten you you probably are in desperate need of some of that moroccon majoun.
D.Mehring
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good way to get into bowles 30 Jan 2000
By Matthew L. Moffett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A fabulous collection by one of the better fiction writers from this century. If you are new to Bowles, this is an excellent way to dig in and see and what he is about. East/West cultural differences, bizarre mysticism and brutality are some of the main ideas explored here with his characteristic almost dead-pan descriptions that are both beautiful and brutal in their honesty. Learn why he has been cited as one of the best writers by everyone from the Beats to Raymond Carver. Set apart from them all in Africa, he still managed to influence all of them in major ways. Open it and enjoy.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great collection 10 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
At his best, Bowles is rarely matched as a short story writer (A Distant Episode, The Frozen Fields, Pastor Dowe at Tacate, The Time of Friendship, The Delicate Prey, etc.). Precise, detached prose which often sustains a terrifying and revealing intensity of atmosphere. Any fans of "horror" would love this, though much of the terror is implied, psychological. There's also a few 4-5 pg. hallucinogenic (sp?) pieces which don't do much for me. Well worth reading. And reading (have read A Distant Episode three times).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The late "rediscovery" of Bowles... 18 Mar 2006
By ewomack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book, along with Gore Vidal's incredible introduction, led to a revitalization of the work of Paul Bowles. For far too long most of this work languished in out of print obscurity. But a sentence such as "His short stories are among the best ever written by an American" from the likes of Gore Vidal helped raise eyebrows along with intrigue. New versions of Bowles' work began to appear in the 1980s and eventually led to Bernardo Bertolucci's 1990 film of Bowles' most famous novel, "The Sheltering Sky". Bowles thus had the privilege of being rediscovered late in life (he died in Morocco in 1999 at age 88).

Bowles lived in Morocco for the vast majority of his life. An accomplished composer (trained by Aaron Copland in his youth) and writer, he remained and remains somewhat obscure (or as Vidal puts it "famous among those who were famous"). He writes mostly about non-european cultures, particularly Arabic or Islamic. Many times he said that he wrote from the subconscious; as though he wasn't aware of what he wrote. Some of the stories such as "The Scorpion", "By the Water" (featuring the surreal creature Lazrag), and "You Are Not I" (with its mindboggling midscene character shift) read as though the words did fall from some other dimension. Other stories seem to bear the marks of solid planning, such as "Call at Corazón" (a portrait of a rather unsuccessful marriage unfolding on a South American river), "Under the Sky" ("you are saving your friend's life"), "How Many Midnights" (a surprisingly standard story about a young couple), the nearly epic "The Hours After Noon" (where impressions and reality do not meet), and "Tea on the Mountain" (a very early story). Regardless of how Bowles wrote them, they all share a common undertow of terror of an Edgar Allen Poe style (Bowles once claimed in an interview that his mother read Poe to him before bed(!!!)). Bowles often gets credited for successfully depicting the threads that civilzation hangs on. And the terrors that await beneath the surface.

Some of Bowles' most brilliant creations stem from europeans attempting to infiltrate non-european cultures. "A Distant Episode" tells the disturbing story of a linguist captured by a Moroccan clan who violently turn him into a jester-esque fool. "Pastor Dowe at Tacaté" tells the story of a South American missionary that ends up "bribing" a group of people into hearing scripture by playing the song "Crazy Rhythm" on a victrola. He becomes too successful. In a gesture of thanks the leader of the group offers his very young daughter to the pastor. Which wasn't exactly what the pastor had in mind. The fantastic "The Time of Friendship" depicts the attempts of a German woman to "Christianize" a young Muslim boy. She memorably builds him a crèche. And he memorably doesn't respond to it the way she hopes. Bowles has an uncanny ability to portray the confusion and frustration of clashing cultures without making either side look ridiculous or inferior. When he writes tragic stories about people getting mistreated or misunderstood in other cultures, it never comes across as spiteful or racist. It seems strangely sympathetic regardless of the pain or horrors depicted. "The Delicate Prey" probably stands as the best example of this. It's downright disturbing. And violently sadistic. In such ways, Bowles' fiction actually teaches us about facing other cultures, and the problems and potential terrors that can arise if one "gets lost". Although he also presents a humorous example with the late story "You Have Left Your Lotus Pods on the Bus". Here a westerner spends the day with a group of Thai Buddhist monks ("What is the significance of the necktie?").

This collection presents a great overiew of the bulk of Bowles' short story output. The thick meaty stories of the 1940s gradually give way to the lighter stories of the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1970s many of the stories run only a few pages. But they maintain their intensity. "Allal" ends the book brilliantly with the story of a boy who enters the psychic perspective of a colorful snake. It evokes the same mood as the gorgeous earlier story "The Circular Valley" in which a spirit (an "Atlájala") enters a couple in love and storms off with disgust.

With the possible exception of the four kif-inspiried stories from the 1960s this collection offers up no disappointments. It demonstrates Bowles at his best. Anyone curious about this still rather obscure writer can start with this book. It includes most of Bowles' most acclaimed work. And at the end readers will likely wonder how this innovative storyteller continues to remain in the shadows of obscurity.
5.0 out of 5 stars can be read and reread 20 Jan 2013
By L,I,B,E,R,T,Y, - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had read these stories years ago and loved them. Now, upon rereading them, I find them as fresh and revelatory as when I first read these mysterious, dream- like, quasi-hallucinatory short stories.
The foreward by Gore Vidal is insightful and worth reading.
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