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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging and Poetic Novel
Beautifully-written novel about the cruelty of that which we do not know or understand. There were unbelievable descriptions of the filth and abject poverty in the some of the North African cities. At these times, it was difficult to see the beauty that the main traveler, Port, was searching for, and also laid to waste a lot of the glamor attached to the "world traveler"...
Published on May 4 2003 by momwith2kids

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful starkness cheaply undone
In terms of plot, The Sheltering Sky is principally about a collapsing marriage and the intrusion of "another man." But at its heart the book is about the loneliness of the desert, which is also the loneliness of individual human hearts, and about our attempts to break through the sky into what lies beyond, and our failures to do so caused by fear.
The plotting is...
Published on July 11 2003 by James Clark


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging and Poetic Novel, May 4 2003
By 
momwith2kids (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sheltering Sky 2e Pa (Paperback)
Beautifully-written novel about the cruelty of that which we do not know or understand. There were unbelievable descriptions of the filth and abject poverty in the some of the North African cities. At these times, it was difficult to see the beauty that the main traveler, Port, was searching for, and also laid to waste a lot of the glamor attached to the "world traveler" in third-world countries. The entire story was filled with poetic imagery of the desert, death, the sky, the sun and heat. Also many characters along the journey; the descriptions of the Lyles were incredible: A wonderful picture of such a disgusting and despicable pair. There were many other characters like the menacing Captain Broussard, the frightening yet intriguing Belqassim.
For the first part of the book, we met Kit and Port, who supposedly went to North Africa to rekindle their marriage, although I didn't get that impression simply because a) Port invited his friend Tunner and b) Kit didn't seem to share Port's interest in North Africa and c) neither Port nor Kit seemed interested in each other once they got there. At some point, all three of them had cheated on each other, betraying each other's trust, friendship, and love, though the issue was never confronted by any of them. In fact, these characters' personalities and relationships to each other were the most bewildering issues of the book.
There was a constant criss-crossing between a desperately strong sense of duty (without knowing why) to utter complacency and indifference between Kit and Port. They, along with Tunner, seemed rich, spoiled and ignorant. I couldn't understand their reactions to certain situations; such as Tunner's thoughts as to how his friends at home would interpret Port and Kit's disappearance, or Kit's reaction to Port's death, or Port's overreactions to Kit! Then again, the three of them were in an extreme environment. They wandered aimlessly in another world, void of Western reason, void of Western fairness, powerful, unyielding, and wholly unsympathetic.
I loved Bowles' constant symbolism throughout the book; such as Marhnia's retelling of the story of the women who wished for tea in the sahara, for which they got more than they bargained. Then there was the train dream that was so important for Port to interpret: "one's hesitation was an involuntary decision to refuse participation" in life. I think that this sentence pretty much described Port, Kit and Tunner. Again, they drifted much of the time, making decisions very much on a whim, living moment to moment, refusing to face the feelings deep in their conscience: Guilt, regrets, fear, etc. Finally, Port's stolen passport was a wonderful symbolism of his inevitable erasure from existence.
The last section of the novel was fantastic. Kit was forced to stop living according to omens in the sky, forced to stop living in fear. Up until this point, most of her living was vicarious through Port. Her journey with the men in the caravan was frightening and savage, yet it completely opened a long-hidden facet in her character. The irony was that it took her to the point of no return. Once she was "saved," it was sadly clear that no Westerner could possibly understand what she experienced, so it seemed fitting that Kit would just disappear into her own madness, or was it even madness?
Yes, I loved this novel--a gorgeous illustration of the cruel beauty of the desert and its culture. Such a seemingly benign environment was powerful enough to bring any arrogant Westerner physically and psychically, to his knees.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dramatic and unforgiving landscape beautifully described, Aug. 12 2008
By 
Betty Gelean "nightreader" (Smithers, BC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Sheltering Sky (Paperback)
Paul Bowles has spun a dramatic and unforgiving landscape in great detail. The story takes place in post-WWII North Africa predominantly in the Sahara. The book is very descriptive, and the characters are introduced and grow throughout the story, although I never feel particularly drawn to them. Three people, our protagonist Port Moresby with his wife Kit and his friend Tunner, adventuring together avoiding tourist areas and seeking the real Sahara. Although the Moresbys have traveled together in the past, the third party does make a difference in attitudes and understanding. The book is written in 3 distinct parts.

The clash of cultures is not helped when an older woman with her adult son crash the scene with little conception of who they are walking all over. And are they really who they seem? They follow very closely the same paths as Port, Kit and Tunner. It is not long before our travellers are split up in various ways and various combinations. Everything that appears to be so tranquil seems to be wrapped around something dark and dangerous. Depression, illness and loss become almost constant companions. Kit's solo journey through the desert was interesting and the unchanging views were so well described I could actually see them in my mind. The caravan she joins feels real. As Kit becomes more and more withdrawn from reality one begins to wonder if she will ever return to herself.

In the third part, I felt disillusioned with the everyone! I can understand in a world of poor with an almost complete lack of ability to communicate because of the language barrier, but what I can't fathom is why those who spoke English or French could not see what was happening with Kit. I thought the ending was too abrupt and unfinished. It just left me feeling a sense of loss. I did like the book for its descriptive nature, but I can't say that it really grabbed me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patience is a virtue, Sept. 26 2003
By 
Eric J. Lyman (Roma, Lazio Italy) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Sheltering Sky (Hardcover)
The Sheltering Sky may be the best book I ever read that nearly failed my 50-page rule. That's the rule I made up that allots a book that many pages to convince me to continue. If it fails to do so, it's back to the shelf or into a box -- sometimes to never be heard from again.
The Sheltering Sky is a good book, but it starts slow and never manages to evolve into any kind of a page-turner. But something I can't put my finger on wouldn't let me push it aside after those 50 pages, something I'm now very glad for.
The general premise of the story is simple: three Americans travel to Morocco in the wake of the Second World War to escape civilization and to find themselves. But the story is really an exploration into the way people react in a crisis and especially the way Americans interact with unfamiliar cultures.
It makes for a memorable if not effortless read, one of the popular 20th century books that deserve the label "classic" and that will compel you to confront your own morality, ethics, arrogance and pathos.
Though the book is dense and serious, it is not without a few subtle jokes: the two rival French army commanders, one of whom drinks only cognac and the other named d'Armagnac; the pathetic and entertaining Lyles; the unintentionally comic diplomat who tries to help Kit over the book's final pages.
I'll conclude with a tip: once you've finished The Sheltering Sky, go back and re-read the first chapter. It's beautifully written, but some of its insights are clear only in retrospect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful starkness cheaply undone, July 11 2003
By 
James Clark (Haverhill, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sheltering Sky 2e Pa (Paperback)
In terms of plot, The Sheltering Sky is principally about a collapsing marriage and the intrusion of "another man." But at its heart the book is about the loneliness of the desert, which is also the loneliness of individual human hearts, and about our attempts to break through the sky into what lies beyond, and our failures to do so caused by fear.
The plotting is simple and direct, but it's Bowles' insights into our fears and self-erected emotional barriers that drive the novel. The desert provides more than just imagery; it creates an atmosphere in which drama and tension thrive. The prose is beautiful throughout.
Yet the novel completely falls apart in the final section, in which Kit undergoes an emotional exile and (false?) return. The competency Bowles displays earlier in the novel in depicting human emotions and motivations completely disappears; the plot becomes an extended male fantasy of sexual imprisonment that cheapens the quality of the novel as a whole. Such truths as Bowles reveals in this section of the book could have been given much more powerfully and simply without this absurd detour into Arab sexual adventurism.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Americans abroad, April 1 2004
This review is from: Sheltering Sky 2e Pa (Paperback)
The Sheltering Sky aspires to be a sweeping, elegiac novel in which the protagonists' confrontations with the hostile, foreign elements of both nature and humankind provide a figurative structure from within which the author can make beautiful, momentous and pithy observations on our modern lives.
Put it another way: there aren't many funny bits. The Sheltering Sky takes itself very seriously indeed.
Alas, Paul Bowles' enterprise is completely undermined by the (actually fairly well observed) characters: the lead roles in this Saharan melodrama are played by a husband and wife who have fallen out of love with each other. If this were all, I think Bowles might have got away with it. But crucially, the couple - Port and Kit - are also two of the most dislikeable lead characters to be found anywhere in contemporary fiction.
Port is selfish, unfaithful, rude and arrogant. Kit is hardly better: duplicitous, similarly unfaithful, hysterical, and given to an annoying irrationality which, towards the end of the book veers inexplicably towards sheer lunacy. Another reviewer has described them as "innocents abroad". That may be how they're regarded in the author's homeland; people in other parts of the world would recognise them as something rather different and, I'm bound to say, less appealing: "Americans abroad".
Port and Kit have the most irritating, implausible conversations; the sort which could only be invented by an author trying to explore Important Things. Consider the following exchange:
"'Why don't you extend your good wishes to all humanity, while you're at it?' she demanded.
"'Humanity?' cried Port. 'What's that? Who is humanity? I'll tell you. Humanity is everyone but one's self. So of what interest can it be to anybody?'"
Anyone conducting this conversation in real life is, I respectfully submit, asking to have their lights punched out.

It is thus extremely hard to give a damn about either of the characters. And when an author has lost (or in this case, never really gained) his audience's sympathy for his protagonists, then any message that might be embedded in their experiences is likely to remain buried (because the reader can't be bothered to look for it) or worse, to be rejected altogether. Instead, one can take perverse pleasure from their misfortunes (which are many and varied) - but this can hardly have been what Paul Bowles intended.
It is hard to understand what Bowles did intend, though: his writing at critical points is oblique enough to be completely meaningless. Again, take an example - a complete paragraph which arrives pretty much out of nowhere:
"His cry went on through the final image: the spots of raw bright blood on the earth. Blood on excrement. The supreme moment, high above the desert, when two elements, blood and excrement, long kept apart, merge. A black star appears, a point of darkness in the night sky's clarity. Point of darkness and gateway to repose. Reach out, pierce the fine fabric of the sheltering sky, take repose."
If you know what on Earth that's all about, you've done better than me. And if you care, then this may be the book for you. If not, consider exchanging days of irritation for two short hours of it: rent Bartolucci's film version instead.
Olly Buxton
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5.0 out of 5 stars Special stock of the soul., Nov. 26 2002
By 
This review is from: Sheltering Sky 2e Pa (Paperback)
Paul Bowles was a genius. Along Maurice Ravel, Saint-Exupery, Debussy and Buñuel...Bowles is a distinguished memeber of The Club. The sky above us is like a shelter which protect us from what is beyond...the obscurity of the universe, the obscurity of the soul. It happens in the same place where the plane of Saint-Exupery failed and was forced to land to find the little prince. But The Sheltering Sky is the total treaty of the soul. The face to face stand with fate and fortune -at once- when we discover that loosing our companions can lead us to the point of no return, the point which Bowles understood from Kafka, the poin to be reached, where the streetcar makes a wide turn...the end of the line, when we realize that our lives will never be the same it used to be a minute ago. Until we can avoid or cheat destiny we tend to believe life as an endless, limitless well, but here comes the powerful point of Bowles: how many more times we'll see the fullmoon rise? Perhaps quite few -surely very few as a matter of fact- and folishly we think life will never ends!
Bowles himself gave a sublime review to this matter: our soul is the weariest part of our being. No special stock collection of the soul is compleate without this masterpice. Get it, you will not regret the cost, it will be surely an invesment with the great return of deeply apreciated knowledge.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars transports you, June 11 2003
By 
Michael Cain (Honolulu, HI United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sheltering Sky 2e Pa (Paperback)
There's a haunting scene where the surviving characters gaze up at teh full moon over the desert, and think of how rarely they truly notice the moon . . . and begin to wonder how many full moons they have left in their lives. All of Bowles' works make you confront your mortality in ways that are, ultimately, liberating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars raw human emotions expressed as words..., Nov. 4 2002
By 
lazza (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sheltering Sky 2e Pa (Paperback)
If you are expecting The Sheltering Sky to be nothing more than a travelogue of Morocco coupled with a forgettable story ... well, you'll be surprised. Perhaps more so than any other novel I've read Paul Bowles succeeds in expressing the most deep, complex human emotions into words. And he does so without making The Sheltering Sky a cumbersome read. The narrative flows rather well. Yet this book is not for avid readers of Oprah books; The Sheltering Sky is far more ambitious and disturbing than anything published nowadays. And as for a travelogue, this book will not enhance Morocco's tourist business.
The story? On the surface it is about a floundering American couple who, in the late 1940s, head to Morocco with hopes of having some fun (and salvaging their marriage). However as we soon learn, through deliciously subtle language, is that not only is their marriage having troubles but our couple have seemingly forgot about their reasons for living. Worse, this trip becomes a nightmare (..no spoilers). Towards the end of the book we get an especially close look at the wife's spiritual death/re-birth (..this latter aspect might be offensive to conservative/religious folks).
As with the other reviewers I must say The Sheltering Sky is truly a special, memorable read. It is a challenging but not an especially difficult read. And I found the author's views of Arabs and foreigners to be relatively balanced. Or rather, no one race/nationality is portrayed better/worse at the expense of another.
Bottom line: one of the few books rightly called a modern classic.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Sentimientos encontrados (Review in spanish), Dec 26 2003
By 
Jorge F. M "Jorge Flores" (Naucalpan Mexico) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sheltering Sky 2e Pa (Paperback)
(Review in Spanish).Como muchos seguramente, emprendí la lectura de este libro tras haber visto la película del mismo nombre de Bernardo Bertolucci. Encontré que el film es bastante fiel a la novela en algunos puntos, mientras que partes importantes de la novela (como la narración de la historia de las hermanas que querían tomar el té en el Sahara) fueron omitidos de la película.
Pero, ¿Cómo es el libro? Por el lado bueno, la prosa de Bowles es intensa y precisa, transportando al lector al calor, la basura y el encanto particular de Africa .Algunas frases son memorables. Por el lado malo, Bowles tiende a alargar demasiado ciertas situaciones (la enfermedad de Port, el viaje personal de Kit), haciendo con ello difícil y tediosa la narración.
En suma, el libro tal vez es para aquellos que ya conocen a Bowles o los que estudian Letras, aman la literatura, etc. Los lectores casuales pueden rentar la película y acabar con el asunto en un par de horas, ahorrandose tiempo y dinero, y quedar igualmente satisfechos.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The reality of being an traveler, Nov. 25 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Sheltering Sky 2e Pa (Paperback)
The book is well written in that I felt I was traveling in the hot, humid desert to the mysterious North African cities with the 3 American characters, and was able to get into the interior of their minds and how they comprehended being in an alien culture. The beginning was slow but once you get going into the book the more interesting the journey becomes. The three American's are not very sympathetic people in the book, except maybe Port who seems to want to try to understand the native people and have relationships with them such as Marhnia, but her story of having Tea in the Sahara is as imcomprehensible as her and frusturating because I wanted to connect to Marhnia and understand her story like Port but could not. I also like the way the author writes about the minds of other people like the Lieutenant d'Armagnac;"His overt attitude toward the people of Bou Noura was that they were an acessible part of a great tribe from whom the French could learn a great deal if they would only take the trouble." What's interesting about Lieutenant d-Armagnac is that he wanted to communicate and understand the local's but also failed to do so despite his best intentions. Overall The Sheltering Sky is an excellent story about how Three American travelers are tragically link to a culture that they, like most travelers do not know very much about in that they failed to take in the realities such as the heat, food, disease, and the native people intil it was too late. Maybe being just a tourist is not such a bad idea after all.
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Sheltering Sky
Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (Paperback - March 17 1990)
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