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The Dream at the End of the World: Paul Bowles and the Literary Renegades in Tangier Paperback – 1 Jun 1992
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It does raise interesting questions of (1) why do some writers thrive in exile and some writers do not and (2) whether I would have had any patience with the hippies who lined up at the American embassy on Sunday afternoons to call home to their mothers to demand more money for drugs and (3) how much sympathy do I have for people with unlimited resources that complain of boredom.
Those flaunting their eccentricities or flouting conventionality were so numerous that the odd was normal and the normal odd. Illustrative anecdote: At a French brothel in Tangier there was a floorshow with a series of tableaux amoureux. The pairings consisted of a woman with a woman, a man with a man, and a woman with a donkey. A visitor asked the madam, "Why don't you show a man with a woman?" She drew herself up and said, "Monsieur! This is a respectable house!"
In THE DREAM AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Michelle Green tells the story of Tangier as a mid-20th century Sodom and Gomorrah. The book is centered on the lives of Paul and Jane Bowles. Paul Bowles settled in Tangier in 1947 and made it his base for the rest of his life. His wife Jane was never truly at home in Tangier, but, faithful to Paul in her own peculiar way, she too spent most of her time there until mental illness and poor health overtook her in the late Sixties. Over the years, Tangier and the Bowleses hosted a who's who from the cultural avant garde and associated gossip columns and scandal sheets, including Francis Bacon, William Burroughs, Truman Capote, Alfred Chester, Allen Ginsberg, David Herbert, Barbara Hutton, Christopher Isherwood, Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary, Robert Rauschenberg, Susan Sontag, Gore Vidal, and Tennessee Williams - to name (in alphabetical order) some of the individuals who appear in the book.
Paul Bowles explained the magnetic appeal of Tangier thus: "Tangier doesn't make a [person] disintegrate, but it does attract people who are going to disintegrate anyway. Life is so easy here, so cheap and the climate is marvelous. If you're going to go to hell you can do it here more cheaply and more pleasantly than in Greenwich Village." (That of course only applied to the Western interlopers. It was because most of the natives were so mired in abject poverty that the expatriates were able to live such exotic lives so cheaply. Then once independence was achieved, the natives began to insist on their own culture and mores, to the gradual exclusion of Western self-indulgence and decadence. )
I learned enough about Paul Bowles to have a grudging admiration for him. I also learned enough about William S. Burroughs to be thoroughly repulsed by him. As for the rest, I must say that, on the whole, THE DREAM AT THE END OF THE WORLD left me feeling vaguely slimy and discomfited. It is the story of a strange excrescence of Western Civilization.