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.