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Days: A Tangier Diary [Paperback]

Paul Bowles
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 29 2006

Between 1987 and 1989, Paul Bowles, at the suggestion of a friend, kept a journal to record the daily events of his life. What emerges is not only just a record of the meals, conversations, and health concerns of the author of The Sheltering Sky but also a fascinating look at an artist at work in a new medium. Characterized by a refreshing informality, clear-sightedness, and passages of exquisite prose, these pages record with equal fascination the behavior of an itinerant spider, a brutal episode of violence in a Tangier marketplace, and the pageantry and excess of Malcolm Forbes's seventieth birthday party. In Days, a master observer of the foreign and obscure turns his attentions toward his own daily existence, giving us a startlingly candid portrait of his life in late twentieth-century Tangier.


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About the Author

Paul Bowles was born in Queens, New York, in 1910. He began his travels as a teenager, setting off for Paris, telling no one of his plans. In 1930 he visited Morocco for the first time, with Aaron Copland, with whom he was studying music. His early reputation was as a composer and he wrote the scores for several Tennessee Williams plays. Bowles married the writer Jane Auer in 1938, and after the war the couple settled in Tangier. In Morocco Bowles turned principally to fiction. The Sheltering Sky—inspired by his travels in the Sahara—was a New York Times bestseller in 1950, and has gone on to sell more than 250,000 copies. It was followed by three further novels, numerous short stories, nonfiction, and translations. Bowles died in Tangier in 1999.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric Slice of Life Sept. 10 2001
Format:Paperback
Long after the expatriate American writer ceased to be a phenomenon in the 20th century, Paul Bowles, composer and writer, lived on in Tangier, Morocco, until his death just a couple of years ago at age 88. DAYS is a journal he kept at the request of the editor of a literary journal that was in the late 1980's planning a theme issue based on personal journals and notebooks. Bowles was not a diarist, and his first entries reflect his lack of purpose or investment in the form. The entries are not daily by any means or particularly long, but once he gets into it, his product is fascinating. He has a flair for nailing a scene or a mood in a quick sketch. Some may wish to read this for the glimpses of his well-known friends and visitors and his perspective of such social events as a Malcolm Forbes' party. I found the picture of contemporary Muslim-controlled Tangier to be striking. This was written from 1987 - 1989 during which time Salmon Rushdie's SATANIC VERSES was published and a friend of Bowles rather thoughtlessly sent him a copy which the mail inspectors confiscated, which put him in the line of fire for a time. It was also the period when Bertolucci began the process of filming Bowles' novel, THE SHELTERING SKY.
I have to admit, I came to this book knowing next to nothing about Bowles. I had hoped it would be more of a travelogue, or something like Steinbeck's working journals, and it was neither. On the other hand, I was intrigued enough to want to learn more about Bowles, to read his work, and to be sorry that the journal ends abruptly. I realized that given his reports of the stream of photographers, interviewers, would-be biographers, aritsts, celebrities and strangers who came to his door like pilgrims, that he was someone of consequence in our visitable past, and I'm sorry I was not more aware when he was alive. For those who share my ignorance of the man, there is an informative short biography...
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Paul Bowles has been of interest to me ever since I read THE SHELTERING SKY so many years ago. Now with DAYS: TANGIER JOURNAL, the reader gets a behind-the-scenes of one of the most enigmatic writers of the twentieth century. The landscape and people of Tangier, Morocco are expertly painted in all their mysterious charm as Bowles simultaneously deflates and expands upon his own legend. If you are interested in Bowles, this book is a must read for the insight that it gives, insights not necessarily illuminated upon in the average Bowles biography or documentary. Bowles is self-effacing but his contribution to fiction is huge, and this book is like looking through a door, cracked half-open, at the man himself in all his many facets. Morocco itself also figures large in Bowles' art, and the reader gets a real taste of that exotic locale with all its danger and N. African wonder.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insights into Paul Bowles life July 26 2000
Format:Paperback
I picked this volume up because of the references to the Guatemalan writer Rodrigo Rey Rosa; I am very fond of his work. I found items of far greater interest in the day to day activities of Paul Bowles. The challenges of censored mail, time disconnects (e.g. cafe closed when filming is supposed occuring), of ill-tempered fasters during Ramadan, and business concerns (copyrights, translators, contracts ...) make for interesting observations in the hand of Paul Bowles. If you have any interest in Bowles, Mrabet or Rosa, this book is worth your time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immediate, comprehensive; interesting portrait of Bowles. Oct. 5 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Paul Bowles has been of interest to me ever since I read THE SHELTERING SKY so many years ago. Now with DAYS: TANGIER JOURNAL, the reader gets a behind-the-scenes of one of the most enigmatic writers of the twentieth century. The landscape and people of Tangier, Morocco are expertly painted in all their mysterious charm as Bowles simultaneously deflates and expands upon his own legend. If you are interested in Bowles, this book is a must read for the insight that it gives, insights not necessarily illuminated upon in the average Bowles biography or documentary. Bowles is self-effacing but his contribution to fiction is huge, and this book is like looking through a door, cracked half-open, at the man himself in all his many facets. Morocco itself also figures large in Bowles' art, and the reader gets a real taste of that exotic locale with all its danger and N. African wonder.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you for the Days Oct. 30 2006
By ewomack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Paul Bowles often claimed that he lacked ambition. So when Daniel Halpern, an editor at Ecco Press, requested that Bowles start keeping a diary, he didn't seem to understand why. "I would have nothing to report", he insisted. Thankfully, he begrudgingly agreed, and "Days" resulted. Bowles recorded scattered entries from August 19, 1987 to September 5th, 1989. Contrary to his expectations, this short book burgeons with interesting slices of his life in Morocco. Everything from the inexplicable behavior of a spider in his room to the arrival of Mick Jagger in Tangier gets filtered through Bowles' unique perspective. Even the most trivial observations have interest in this context.

One of the more fascinating scenes involves the hubub over a package that Bowles receives. He quickly gets called down to the post office and told that he has a "contraband" book. They don't allow him to see it nor to find out who sent it. But from that moment on his mail gets delayed an extra day for security reasons. Some weeks later he finds out that a friend had tried to send him a copy of Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses." Whoops.

Bowles also writes about day trips he takes with friends, journalists seeking interviews, health problems, his frustrations with certain biographers, aging, his friend's behavior during Ramadan, and the culture of Morocco. Many fascinating things happen. One woman finds him by pretending to be his daughter Catherine from Germany. A French journalist asks him "do you like living this way?" Another journalist keeps futilely asking him "why" questions. When Bowles tells her he won't give accurate answers to such questions, she asks "why not?" He also takes umbrage with writers who feel, by the act of writing, that they're "leaving a part of themselves behind." Bowles reflects, "This would have been understandable earlier in the century when it was assumed that life on the planet would continue indefinitely. Now that the prognosis is doubtful, the desire to leave a trace behind seems absurd." Later on he also says, somewhat uncharacteristically, "I was treated like a star and loved it."

During this time Bowles also finds out about Bernardo Bertolucci's intent of filming "The Sheltering Sky." The two meet a few times, but unfortunately the narrative breaks off before filming begins. Bowles actually appeared in the 1990 movie as himself. But, according to some later interviews, he wasn't completely sold on the project. Regardless, his acting career didn't end there. He also appeared in 1995's "Halbmond" as well as some early art films. If only he had written for a few more months.

"Days" remains a unique look at the seventy-something Bowles in Morocco. In it, he never shies away from editorializing, criticizing, or making poignant statements. None of his other writings or interviews provide quite the same perspective or intimacy. Paul Bowles died ten years after completing this mini memoir. He had spent the majority of his life in Tangier. Sadly, his diary seems to end here. Which leaves the only complaint about "Days": it ends far too quick and produces a lingering thirst for more.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insights into Paul Bowles life July 26 2000
By M. J. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I picked this volume up because of the references to the Guatemalan writer Rodrigo Rey Rosa; I am very fond of his work. I found items of far greater interest in the day to day activities of Paul Bowles. The challenges of censored mail, time disconnects (e.g. cafe closed when filming is supposed occuring), of ill-tempered fasters during Ramadan, and business concerns (copyrights, translators, contracts ...) make for interesting observations in the hand of Paul Bowles. If you have any interest in Bowles, Mrabet or Rosa, this book is worth your time.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric Slice of Life Sept. 10 2001
By C. Ebeling - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Long after the expatriate American writer ceased to be a phenomenon in the 20th century, Paul Bowles, composer and writer, lived on in Tangier, Morocco, until his death just a couple of years ago at age 88. DAYS is a journal he kept at the request of the editor of a literary journal that was in the late 1980's planning a theme issue based on personal journals and notebooks. Bowles was not a diarist, and his first entries reflect his lack of purpose or investment in the form. The entries are not daily by any means or particularly long, but once he gets into it, his product is fascinating. He has a flair for nailing a scene or a mood in a quick sketch. Some may wish to read this for the glimpses of his well-known friends and visitors and his perspective of such social events as a Malcolm Forbes' party. I found the picture of contemporary Muslim-controlled Tangier to be striking. This was written from 1987 - 1989 during which time Salmon Rushdie's SATANIC VERSES was published and a friend of Bowles rather thoughtlessly sent him a copy which the mail inspectors confiscated, which put him in the line of fire for a time. It was also the period when Bertolucci began the process of filming Bowles' novel, THE SHELTERING SKY.
I have to admit, I came to this book knowing next to nothing about Bowles. I had hoped it would be more of a travelogue, or something like Steinbeck's working journals, and it was neither. On the other hand, I was intrigued enough to want to learn more about Bowles, to read his work, and to be sorry that the journal ends abruptly. I realized that given his reports of the stream of photographers, interviewers, would-be biographers, aritsts, celebrities and strangers who came to his door like pilgrims, that he was someone of consequence in our visitable past, and I'm sorry I was not more aware when he was alive. For those who share my ignorance of the man, there is an informative short biography...
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mundane July 29 2010
By Jane Price - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Unless one knows the characters, there is nothing of interest in this diary.
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