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The Sheltering Sky (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 29 Jan 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Re-issue edition (29 Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141187778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141187778
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"It stands head and shoulders above most other novels published in English since World War II."--"The New Republic""[The Sheltering Sky] is one of the most original, even visionary, works of fiction to appear in this century."--Tobias Wolff

From the Back Cover

Port and Kit Moresbury, a sophisticated American couple, are finding it more than a little difficult to live with each other. Endeavouring to escape this predicament, they set off for North Africa intending to travel through Morocco – uncertain of exactly where they are heading, but determined to leave the modern world behind. Port, a musician, is seeking inspiration; Kit, his wife, hopes their adventure together will save their marriage… The first novel of one of the most fascinating and elusive writers of modern times, 'The Sheltering Sky' is a mesmerising story of love and alienation.

‘'Now and then, perhaps once in five or six years, a novel appears which does not repeat the pattern of commonplace existence that readers of novels know so well, but makes us realise that our life is extraordinary. 'The Sheltering Sky' is such a novel.'’
OBSERVER

‘'A phenomenon rarer than sword-swallowing: a work of fiction which also happens to be a work of art'’
THE TIMES

'’Sexual perversion, spiritual bankruptcy, violence, madness, nihilism – that's what Bowles writes about… it is the way he uses intricate frameworks of language to contain and control a vision of near-total horror that makes him an original and important writer.’'
GUARDIAN

'’Remarkably gifted – Bowles relates his story in prose of such acuity that it is believable and chilling. This classic demands to be read.'’
GUARDIAN

‘'His work is art. At his best, Bowles has no peer.’’
TIME MAGAZINE

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 May 1999
Format: Paperback
Port Moresby (probably the only fictional character to be named after a city in Papua New Guinea) and his wife Kit head off on a journey across North Africa in search of...actually they haven't a clue what they're looking for. All they find is heat, desert and a growing realisation that their marriage is collapsing within an environment that they are increasingly unable to cope with. Matters are complicated by the presence of Kit's clandestine lover and a boorish English mother and son combination who do little but encroach upon the Moresby's aimless quest. Nothing goes according to plan and as Port's health deteriorates, Kit finds that her terrible omens are about to be fulfilled.
This extraordinary novel envelops the reader with shimmering images and deft characterisation. Amongst all this, there is a message about the hollowness of the American post-war experience. The protagonists feel compelled to explore alien territory but their search for discovery is engulfed by the vastness of the desert. The way the plot unfolds is totally unexpected but conventional narrative wouldn't make sense here. North Africa is different and in this book Bowles lucidly demonstrates why this is the case.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE on 23 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
The key lead characters are travellers not tourists as they travel, not tour, around North Africa. It is a very important distinction to appreciate, as this book aspires to a gravitas it barely deserves. Their 'journey' has no destination or objective. And as for liking them as people, then I am extremely grateful to the Introduction which describes them as 'psychological organisms rather than characters'.

Much of the book is a well-written travelogue with some interesting peripheral characters. Presumably, Mr Bowles drew heavily on his own experience of life in the locale. Other reviewers have discussed the final third in detail. Suffice to say that the author introduces the section with a quote from Kafka and then goes off into free form. You will love it or hate it.

I must stress that the first two thirds kept me turning the pages. It was only when 'style' took over that I lost interest.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Depressaholic on 28 Dec. 2004
Format: Paperback
'TSS' by Paul Bowles is the story of Kit and Port Moresby, who are travelling around North Africa in the years preceding World War II, accompanied by their friend Tunner. Kit and Port are married but estranged, a couple who are as close to perfection for the other as their personalities allow, but who share a love of isolation and secrecy that means that there will always be a chasm between them. Tunner is a fly in the ointment, a sexual rival for Port, an irritant for Kit. On their travels they stay in increasingly hellish places, each more alien than the last, and encounter the nightmarish inhabitants, both European and African, of that remote landscape.
This book has been described as 'African Gothic', and this seems as good a label as any. A dark, brooding atmosphere persists throughout, although there is no horror in the traditional sense. Port and Kit are travelling through their own personal heart of darkness, weighed down by the metaphorical baggage the carry with them, and by each other. They attempt to escape this ever-decreasing circle by sexual liaisons that are both erotic and grotesque in equal measure, and by running as far from westerners and the western way of life as possible. However, their fear of the new, frightening, world they encounter, and their inability to rid themselves of the influences of their past lives lead them ever closer to their own personal hell.
'TSS' is brilliantly written, conjuring strong visual images of the world the Moresby's find themselves plunging into. The powerful writing style reminded me of Malcolm Lowry, and I recommend that fans of one try the other. Bowles' writing is less well structured, but just as successful at bringing the nightmare to life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Simon Bendle on 31 May 2012
Format: Paperback
An intense and thoughtful novel with occasional flashes of brilliance, but I was expecting more from this "classic". The characters proved hard people to care about. I found the prose a little ponderous. And the final section about Kit and the camel-riders was unconvincing, even ludicrous (for some reason it brought to mind a terrible Wilbur Smith novel I once read). Disappointing: I finished it without regret.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 13 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
In 1949, Porter and Kit Moresby learn that North Africa is one of the few places to which they can now obtain boat passage in the aftermath of World War II. Married twelve years but staying in separate bedrooms, the Moresbys travel to Morocco with another American named Tunner, a single man enamored with their spontaneous style (and possibly with Kit). This threesome and the Lyles, a mother and son from Australia, are uniformly self-centered, superficial, spoiled, ignorant, and insensitive, and Bowles's level of detail in showing the Lyles' cringe-worthy lack of respect for the local culture through their insulting dialogue suggests that he has overheard dialogue like this more than once during his two years as an expatriate in Tangier.

Eventually, Port and Kit decide to travel together, hoping, belatedly, to revitalize their marriage. Both are so self-absorbed, however, that improvement seems unlikely, especially since Kit suffers from personal "terrors", and Port, a nervous man to start with, begins to wake up from nightmares, sobbing in bed. In Ain Krorfa, as in the port where they first arrived, however, Port Moresby seeks a liaison with a local woman while his wife is sleeping. He also runs afoul of the commander of the military post of Bou Noura when he accuses a local corporal of having stolen his passport, only to have it found by Tunner.

The middle section of the book wanders a bit, lacking direction almost as much as the characters do, and focusing on Port and Kit's personal problems, which are legion. When Port becomes ill with typhoid on his way to a town that has shut down because of a meningitis outbreak, he and Kit find a primitive place to stay so Kit can be nursemaid to the seriously ill Port. "I'm very sick," he confesses.
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