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The Sheltering Sky (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Paul Bowles , Paul Theroux
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Jan 2004 Penguin Modern Classics

'The Sheltering Sky is a book about people on the edge of an alien space; somewhere where, curiously, they are never alone' Michael Hoffman.

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 Algeria - uncertain of exactly where they are heading, but determined to leave the modern world behind. The results of this casually taken decision are both tragic and compelling.

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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: 2.1 x 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"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.'’

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

'’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.’'

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

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

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great novels of the post-war era. 18 May 1999
By A Customer
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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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Heart of Darkness' for the twentieth century 28 Dec 2004
'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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mr Bowles changes trains 23 Sep 2012
By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intense but disappointing 31 May 2012
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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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful snapshot of 1940's travellers. 14 Sep 2004
On my first attempt at reading this book, I will admit I became quickly bored and gave up. I perservered more diligently on my second attempt, although mainly through a lack of anything better to read. I'm glad I did, as once I had read through the opening chapters I quickly became absorbed. The wealth of detail Bowles incorporates into his pastiches is breathtaking, hauntingly echoing the emotions of the central characters. Kit and Port's travels into the desert are used to cleverly underline their increasingly conflicting personalities, both with similarly obscure views on the meaning of existence, yet too different to be easily reconciled. The minor characters in the book are also a joy to read about, bringing their own turbulence to the relationship. As the hostility, vastness and emptiness of the desert increase, so does Port's obsession, yet the desert is anathema to Kit and her 'omens' and the underlying tensions increase, subtley resulting in both their downfalls. A powerful and fascinating read, if only to lose oneself in the landscape for a while.
The introduction by Michael Hofman is disappointing. I feel Hoffman has attempted to straddle a gap between scholarly interest and those reading for leisure, but has failed. There is nothing here that would be terrinbly useful to student readership except as a general background to Bowles' production of the novel, yet it is perhaps to specific and mildy boring to appeal to general interest readers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars strange and sad story
this book definitely is about a life that doesn't exist anymore. A married couple in North Africa searching for the meaning of life and their marriage, which ends in a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by laros76
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever but not engaging.
Kit and Port Moresby are an American couple who do not need to work and after the war have no idea what to do with themselves. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
The Sheltering Sky is a novel following two principal characters, Port and Kit Morseby following the crisis of the second world war, where they travel to the North African Sahara,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by TS
5.0 out of 5 stars The novel as music......
The artistic reputation of Paul Bowles (1910-1999) rests on his four novels, his many short stories and various autobiographical writings, most of them written during the fifty... Read more
Published 2 months ago by John Abbott
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling but makes you think
I bought this as a 2nd hand item from Amazon. I have an apartment in Tangiers and I am following up the literature that has been written there. Read more
Published 3 months ago by S. Hutton
3.0 out of 5 stars There are better books about Morocco.
The sheltering sky, or Tea in the Sahara, as I believe it was called, before the film by Bertolucci, is basically the story of Paul and Jane Bowles travelling around Morocco. Read more
Published 4 months ago by James
5.0 out of 5 stars A mesmerising and disturbing work
An amazing piece of prose, beautifully constructed and realised, The sheltering sky contains the most intimate description of suffering and death from a first person perspective... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Chriss
4.0 out of 5 stars Paul Bowles
A thinking book, I will read more. Need to sit for a couple of hours at a time to digest.
Published 15 months ago by pauline coxon
4.0 out of 5 stars "She had found patches of fur in her rabbit stew...after she had put...
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. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mary Whipple
5.0 out of 5 stars Far from Home
Possibly one of the darkest novels I have ever read and one of the most brilliant. Bowles introduces us to some world weary Fitzgeraldesque characters. Read more
Published 17 months ago by PenFriend
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