Category Archives: Paul Bowles

From the well of absolute night

Her eyes were already open. Dawn was breaking. The rock she leaned against hurt her back. She sighed, and shifted her position a bit. Among the rocks out there beyond the town it was very quiet at this time of the day. She looked into the sky, saw space growing ever clearer. The first slight sounds moving through that space seemed no more than variations on the basic silence of which they were made. The nearby rock forms and the more distant city walls came up slowly from the realm of the invisible, but still only as emanations of the shadowy depths beneath. The pure sky, the bushes beside her, the pebbles at her feet, all had been drawn up from the well of absolute night. And in the same fashion the strange languor in the center of her consciousness, those vaporous ideas which kept appearing as though independently of her will, were mere tentative fragments of her own presence, looming against the nothingness of a sleep not yet cold—a sleep still powerful enough to return and take her in its arms. But she remained awake, the nascent light invading her eyes, and still no corresponding aliveness awoke within her; she had no feeling of being anywhere, of being anyone.

— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

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Comfort

After a certain length of time they left the valley and turned across a wide plantless region strewn with stones. The yellow dunes lay ahead. There was the heat of the sun, the slow climbing to the crests and the gentle going down into the hollows, over and over. She raised no problem for herself; she was content to be relaxed and to see the soft unvaried landscape going by. To be sure, several times it occurred to her that they were not really moving at all, that the dune along whose sharp rim they were now traveling was the same dune they had left behind much earlier, that there was no question of going anywhere since they were nowhere. And when these sensations came to her they started an ever so slight stirring of thought. “Am I dead?” she said to herself, but without anguish, for she knew she was not. As long as she could ask herself the question: “Is there anything?” and answer: “Yes,” she could not be dead. And there were the sky, the sun, the sand, the slow monotonous motion of the mehari’s pace. Even if the moment came, she reflected at last, when she no longer could reply, the unanswered question would still be there before her, and she would know that she lived. The idea comforted her.

— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

Sunset is such a sad hour

Kit took Port’s hand. They climbed in silence, happy to be together.
‘Sunset is such a sad hour’, she said presently.
‘If I watch the end of a day – any day – I always feel it’s the end of a whole epoch. And the autumn! It might as well be the end of everything’, he said. ‘That’s why I hate cold countries, and love the warm ones, where there’s no winter, and when night comes you feel an opening up of the life there, instead of a closing down. Don’t you feel that?’
‘Yes’, said Kit, ‘but I’m not sure I prefer the warm countries. I don’t know. I’m not sure I don’t feel that it’s wrong to try to escape the night and winter, and that if you do you’ll have to pay for it somehow.’
‘Oh, Kit! You’re really crazy.’

— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky