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The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

The Sheltering Sky (1949)

by Paul Bowles

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,410692,329 (3.83)161
  1. 21
    The Immoralist by André Gide (thatguyzero)
  2. 10
    Without Stopping: An Autobiography by Paul Bowles (ominogue)
  3. 00
    Black Sun by Edward Abbey (sturlington)
    sturlington: These two novels reminded me of each other, beyond just the desert setting.
  4. 00
    Black Light: A Novel by Galway Kinnell (EnriqueFreeque)
  5. 11
    The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (WSB7)
    WSB7: The landscape is a major player in each tale.

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» See also 161 mentions

English (63)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Not a easy reading but it has some beauty inside ( )
  lucaconti | Jan 24, 2019 |
So why is the male protagonist named after the capital of Papua New Guinea? A fact of which the author was surely not ignorant as the place figured prominently in World War II?
  sonofcarc | Sep 2, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Mar 2009):
- Adventure of three wanderlust Americans in French Algiers just after WWII. The two men vie for the affections of "Kit", the young, self-centered woman, and early on this leads to some petty intrigues. The early part of the book paints a picture of their surroundings and shows the naivete' of the main characters. Beginning with Part II their rivalries and selfishness, not to mention ignorance of their landscape, turn their fates decidedly quite dark.
I was impressed with the author's depth of feeling, his near poetic voice, yet he kept me glued to the unraveling misadventures of the trio. His very frank portrayal of sex while Kit was captive must have been a bit jolting when this novel came out. This becomes a story of slow, tortuous death and disintegration, extremely well told, though it's near impossible to evoke any sympathy for the remarkably ill-prepared and arrogant protagonists. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Aug 1, 2018 |
(31) Considered a modern classic and a book I have been meaning to read for some time. A young American couple appears to be spending their life of leisure traveling from place to place for long chunks of time, the current trip is in Africa in the Sahara desert. Port and Kit also have a traveling companion, a friend from New York, Tunner, who they are alternately trying to either shake off or perhaps in Kit's case - to attract. It is clear from the beginning that both Port and Kit have some inner neuroses - they are estranged although happy on the surface, Port is lonely despite being surrounded by people, and Kit is convinced that every event that befalls them is a 'bad omen' of some sort. Thus, they begin their adventure under the sheltering sky of the desert.

And indeed it is a strange adventure. Now I know where the Police song 'Tea in the Sahara' comes from at least. The novel is written with mesmerizing prose and wavering points of view. The plot is linear but almost dream-like. It is unclear exactly what they are all seeking from this strange trip - but the descriptions of the camels, the tea-making, the Arabs, the heat, the tunneled cities are haunting. I won't say much about what ultimately happens so as not to spoil, but it is fairly unexpected. I expected this to be about post-colonial ennui and that the protagonists would eventually learn to live a life of meaning through interactions with the 'natives,' right? Predictable. But this was not quite the case. I suspect if I read this book in an English class, there would be A LOT to dissect, and I am sure I did not understand all of what the author was driving at. But, in a quiet though menacing way -- this was stunning.

I can't bring myself to give 5 stars because frankly, I just didn't get it all. Some of the actions and reactions of the characters seemed non-sensical and random. Some of the characters that moved into the story - the Lyles, Belaqassim, Lieutenant d'Armagnac -- to name a few -- seemed to garner quite a bit of attention and focus for parts of the novel and then fell away before it seemed as if a 'story-arc' played out. I dunno - a fascinating read, a somewhat unfulfilling ending, lovely prose. I am humming The Police song. . . ( )
  jhowell | Jun 30, 2018 |
Hypnotic, searing, terrifying, I first read this when I too was living in North Africa--in Egypt, to be precise--and it utterly shattered me. I recognized something of myself and my fellow expats in the thoughtfully self-centered and naive travelers depicted here, and something of the merciless cruelty of the desert I was never far from. The prose style isn't elaborate, but it isn't stark either, and the best I can describe it is to say that it weaves quite a spell, opening a slight yet horrifying window onto the sort of existential dread we all tend to keep at bay. ( )
2 vote MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
There is a curiously double level to this novel. The surface is enthralling as narrative. It is impressive as writing. But above that surface is the aura that I spoke of, intangible and powerful, bringing to mind one of those clouds that you have seen in summer, close to the horizon and dark in color and now and then silently pulsing with interior flashes of fire. And that is the surface of the novel that has filled me with such excitement.

» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul Bowlesprimary authorall editionscalculated
康雄, 大久保Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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[Book One]

"Each man's destiny is personal only insofar as it may happen to resemble what is already in his memory."

--Eduardo Mallea
[Book Two]

"'Good-bye,' says the dying man to the mirror they hold in front of him. 'We won't be seeing each other any more.'"

[Book Three]

"From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached."

To Jane
First words
He awoke, opened his eyes.
Si svegliò, aprì gli occhi. La stanza gli diceva poco o niente, profondamente immerso com'era nel non-essere da cui era appena affiorato. Se l'energia di accertare la propria collocazione nel tempo e nello spazio gli mancava, gliene mancava anche il desiderio. Sapeva soltanto di esistere, d'avere attraversato vaste regioni per ritornare dal nulla; c'era, al centro della sua coscienza, la certezza di una tristezza infinita e al tempo stesso rassicurante, perché era la sola ad essergli familiare.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 006083482X, Paperback)

American novelist and short-story writer, poet, translator, classical music composer, and filmscorer Paul Bowles has lived as an expatriate for more than 40 years in the North African nation of Morocco, a country that reaches into the vast and inhospitable Sahara Desert. The desert is itself a character in The Sheltering Sky, the most famous of Bowles' books, which is about three young Americans of the postwar generation who go on a walkabout into Northern Africa's own arid heart of darkness. In the process, the veneer of their lives is peeled back under the author's psychological inquiry.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:36 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A beautiful, yet disturbing, tale of two people traveling into the Sahara. Although the couple apear to be smart, independent travelers, they are not equipped to travel into the desert.Thus, each time hardship strikes, pieces of their comfortable lives and the identities they had constructed seem to peel away. The shifting sands and unforgiving sun are metaphors for the shocking and vulgar circumstances that befall them.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141023422, 0141187778, 0141195134

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