Paul Bowles Kept Doing What He Did Best

I’ve reached the end, finally, of a book I’ve been reading since October 2005. It was a lovely book, Paul Theroux’ “The Pillars of Hercules,” given to me by my fellow traveler Carla Waldemar, as we left Santiago. In one of the last scenes, the author visits another legendary writer, Paul Bowles, in Tangiers. They smoke kif (pot) cigarettes together in his tiny room, that Bowles rarely leaves.

“We kept puffing, companionably, saying nothing. Then I saw what Bowle’s real strength was: he was stubborn. People came and went. Bowles stayed. People started and abandoned their symphonies and novels. Bowles finished his own. People got sick and neglected their work. Bowles took to his bed and kept working. His life was a masterpiece of non attachment, of a stubborn refusal to become involved in anyone else’s passions. I could just imagine his blue eyes narrowing and his thin lips saying ‘I’m not moving.’

Bowles said. “People come every day…I work all the time. Malraux said to me, ‘Never let yourself become a public monument. If you do, people will piss on you.”