The Travel Writing of Paul Bowles

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  07.23.10 | 11:57 AM ET

Paul Bowles is best known for his 1949 novel The Sheltering Sky, but he produced quite a bit of travel writing during his lifetime, including one of our 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time (see #87). Much of his shorter stuff, covering places as diverse as the Costa del Sol and Sri Lanka,  has just been collected into an anthology edited by Rough Guides founder Mark Ellingham. It just earned a positive review in The Independent.

Michael Jacobs calls particular attention to a piece included in the anthology about travel writing itself.

In this 1958 piece, Bowles voices concerns only too relevant today.

At a time when “in theory anyone can go anywhere”, he saw the genre as having shifted in emphasis “from the place to the effect of the place upon the person”. However, he thought that the sort of people likely now to travel would be generally unsympathetic towards subjective impressions and prefer a work containing practical information. Bowles believed that a travel book should be nothing more than “the story of what happened to one person in a particular place”, but he feared “such books form a category which is doomed to extinction”.

Fortunately for those of us who love great travel writing, they’re not quite extinct yet.



3 Comments for The Travel Writing of Paul Bowles

Villas in Bali 07.27.10 | 12:26 AM ET

love his writing..read once but the forget about the address..thanks to you now i found it..

sherlin cameron 07.29.10 | 7:37 AM ET

I personally believe in Bowles theory that one can go anywhere but now a days most of travel writers are opting some sort of marketing technique in order to attract more and more travel reader and due to which i also feel that travel writing is at its extinct position.But being a traveler i also believe that its very important for an individual to understand the history of that particular place and as far as writing a travel book is concerned, traveler must mention each and every single incident of his/her traveling period which really provides the basic knowledge of contemporary society for that particular destination.

Barry Stepe 08.31.10 | 7:55 PM ET

I admire he travel writings of Paul Bowles. He not only describes a place to every minute detail, but also tries to convey the feelings and emotions that are felt when traveling and experiencing new lands. He is one of the few travel writers who I’ve read who are able to describe a place so intensely.

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