Jane and Paul Bowles, New York, 1944
previously unpublished journal, 1986
The first sky he saw was the sky above New York.
Winters it snowed. The school was dark.
There was a song which went: "When you come back, if you do come back."
It was addressed to the American soldiers in France.
There was a day when the children paraded in the street.
They sang "Marching through Georgia", a song of victory from the Civil War.
Now it celebrated a different victory.
Kaiser Wilhelm would no longer haunt the children's dreams.
Summer meant sunshine and lakes and crickets.
The peaches dropped to the ground and were speared
by the stubble.
A day was invisible, had no hours.
The dark brought the voices of the night insects.
But school went on for many years. Discipline was strict.
The idea of escape took root and grew.
A night with thunder in the sky he packed his bag and left.
The S.S. Rijndam was old and slow. This was its last voyage.
Passengers for Boulogne went ashore in a dinghy,
rocked by the waves.
At dawn the empty streets of Paris were clean and shining.
This was fifty-seven years ago. Things are different now.
The excitements of Paris: Le Cafe du Dome, La Mosquee.
Le Theatre du Grand Guignol, el Bal Negre de la Rue Blomet.
He worked for forty francs a week, and sometimes was hungry.
Then a girl he'd known from childhood came through Paris
and saved him.
He wandered on the Cote d'Azur, in Switzerland.
And along the paths of the Schwarzwald.
He was happy, and he wrote words which he imagined made poems.
That winter in New York Aaron Copland told him: You should
become a composer.
It will be difficult, he thought, but why not try?
Soon he was in Paris again. He admired Gertrude Stein.
She told him he was not a poet, so he stopped trying to be one.
This meant that he devoted himself only to music.
Miss Stein did not like the music either.
In Hanover he stayed with Kurt Schwitters.
He went with him to the city dumping ground
And they collected material for the Merzbau.
In Berlin he wrote music, and people shouted; Fenster zu!
In Paris they cried: Fermez la fenetre!
In Tangier only Copland and the cicadas could hear him.
In the Sahara he fell in love with the sky
And knew that he would keep returning there.
In the spring he was in Agadir, where the food was not clean.
The doctors in Paris told him he had typhoid fever.
He lay for a month in the hospital. His mother came from New
When he was well they went to Spain and to Monte Carlo.
Winter came. He wanted the desert.
He took a house outside the oasis of Ghardaia.
He went to Tunisia on the back of a camel.
In Tunis he learned that he had no money.
Frank D. Roosevelt had closed the banks. The dollar was not
Friends in France wired him francs.
He arrived in Tangier with his python skin and seventeen
He knew he must return to America, but first he sailed to
That way he stayed outside the cage a little longer.
In New York he thought only of Morocco.
Like a convict planning a prison break he presented his escape.
And summer found him sailing toward the east. he stayed in
Fez this time.
And though his parents awaited him in New York
He went to South America to see how it looked.
The forests and the mountains delighted him, but he did not stay.
He was in California writing music. He was in New York
Orson Welles wanted music for two plays, and he provided it.
Kristians Tonny and his wife arrived in New York.
Jane Auer appeared on the scene, and the four set out for Mexico.
The day after they arrived in Mexico City Jane disappeared.
Much later they heard she had gone to Arizona.
After a few months they went on to Guatemala. It was very fine.
He hurried to New York to orchestrate his first ballet.
He took Jane Auer to hear it played by the Philadelphia
Soon Jane Auer became Jane Bowles.
With too much luggage they boarded a Japanese ship
and went southward.
Then they were in Guanacaste with the monkeys and parrots
And they carried a parrot with them from Costa Rica
They were on the Cote d'Azur when Chamberlain visited
They were in New York when Hitler marched eastward.
He was writing music for theater and film directors
And Jane was writing a novel.
They decided to go and live in Mexico. The hacienda
was ten thousand feet up.
When he had to fly to New York to work, Jane stayed behind.
The rooming-house where they lived that winter was run by
the poet Auden.
At half past six each morning Jane met the poet in the
Jane was a friend of Thomas Mann's daughter Erika.
And Auden had married her. They had things to talk about.
Soon they were back in Mexico. He was composing a zarzuela.
And Jane was writing a novel.
One day she came to the end of it.
The next day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
They went to Tehuantepec and listened to the marimbas.
He was still working on the zarzuela. He was also writing a
They went to New York and he became a music critic.
Jane's novel was published and Leonard Bernstein conducted
He went to Mexico and admired the new volcano Paricutin.
The Belgian Government-in-Exile commissioned music for a
film on the Congo.
Collaborating with Salvador Dali, he wrote a third ballet.
Then he began to write short stories, and grew tired of writing
He went to Cuba and El Salvador. Jane was writing a play.
He stopped being a music critic, but continued to write music
One night he dreamed he was in Morocco. The dream made
him very happy.
A publisher commissioned him to write a novel.
He decided to leave New York and go back to Morocco.
In Fez he began to write The Sheltering Sky.
He continued to write it as he moved here and there in the
He met Jane in Tangier and took her to Fez.
A stream rushed by under their windows as they worked.
He finished his novel.
He had already written music for Tennessee Williams' first
He was not surprised to learn that Tennessee wanted him for
He went to New York and wrote the score.
After the opening he took Tennessee back to Morocco with him.
The weather was bad, and Tennessee stayed less than a month.
He and Jane were living at the Farhar in Tangier.
Truman Capote arrived.
For six weeks he amused them at mealtimes.
There were many parties and picnics.
Jane worked in her cottage, but he did not know what she was writing.
He was chagrined to hear that the publishers did not want his book.
We expected a novel, they said, and this is not a novel.
So it was published first in London.
They went to England and stayed a few weeks in Wiltshire.
Jane wanted to spend the winter inParis. He decided on Sri Lanka.
On the ship he started a novel about Tangier.
He went to stay on a tea plantation in the hills.
Where leopards hid behind rocks and carried off the dogs.
He took a boat across to Dhanushkodi in India.
India was hotter than Sri Lanka. He worked on his novel.
When he arrived in Paris, Jane was not ready to leave.
He was making an opera out of Garcia Lorca's Yerma.
This was for Libby Holman. They spent a month together in Andalusia.
Autumn in Fez. Winter and spring in the Sahara.
Jane wanted to return to Morocco.
He drove to the French frontier and picked her up.
But she liked Spain so much that they spent a month there.
She finished her play and went to New York.
He finished his novel and went to Bombay.
The Indian railways had suffered in the past two years.
In South India he was put into a screening camp.
Along with twenty thousand Tamils caught while trying to
escape to Sri Lanka.
But although they were here for months and years.
He got out after two days, and went to Sri Lanka.
In midsummer he was in Venice. he was in Madrid when a
wire came from Ceylon.
It was possible now to buy a small island off the coast of
He bought it and went to New York to write music for Jane's play.
In the summer he was in Rome, working on a film for Visconti.
He did not know what he was doing, but he did it anyway.
That winter in Tangier, while he had paratyphoid, William Burroughs
came to see him.
It was a year before they got to know one another.
In the summer he started to write a third novel, this one about Fez.
It was half finished when he and Jane sailed
To pass the winter on Taprobane, the island off the coast of Sri Lanka.
Jane was not well. She was not happy there.
After two months she returned to Tangier.
He finished his novel and took a cruise to Japan.
Then he went back to Tangier and continued his work on the
Garcia Lorca opera.
His parents came to visit him. They enjoyed Morocco.
He was surprised.
He thought about his island, and decided to go to Sri Lanka and sell it.
The Suez Canal was blocked. He had to go via Cape Town.
He passed the winter at Taprobane and set sail for Mombasa.
While he was in Kenya Jane suffered a stroke.
He took her to England to be examined.
The doctors could do nothing, and they returned to Tangier.
Soon she became worse and had to go to London again.
It was a bad time.
In Madeira her health grew worse. She was obliged to go to
Tennessee, who loved her, came from Florida to meet her at
The Garcia Lorca opera was produced. It was not a success.
Libby Holman had worked very hard, but there was no director.
He and Jane went back to Tangier. But then a telegram came from Tennessee.
Saying he needed music for a new play.
He sent him the script for Sweet Bird of Youth.
Part of the music was written in Tangier and part on the
New York-bound ship.
The Rockefeller Foundation gave him a grant to record music
He spent six months taping music in the mountains, the desert
and the city.
The following year he began to tape Moroccan story-tellers.
Jane seemed to be better, but she still could not see to work.
He took Allen Ginsberg to Marrakesh.
But they arrived the day the Medina burned.
The smoke from the bazaars and souks was heavy in the air.
Jane's health was now less good. They went twice to America,
saw their parents.
Consulted doctors who might be of use. But no doctors could
be of use.
In Tangier on the Monte Viejo he wrote his fourth novel.
He began to translate what Mohammed Mrabet recorded.
A publisher asked him to write a book about cairo.
He did not want to do it, so he playfully suggested Bangkok.
The publisher agreed. He went to Bangkok via Panama.
He was appalled.
You have arrived fifteen years too late, everyone told him.
The trees were gone. The klongs has been filled in.
The air was foul.
After four months the Thai authorities forced him to leave.
In Tangier he found that Jane needed to be hospitalized.
He took her to Spain.
Then he agreed to go to California to teach.
He told his students that he was not a teacher and could not teach.
They laughed, thinking he was eccentric.
After the first semester he returned to Morocco.
Jane begged to be taken back to Tangier. The doctors advised
Nevertheless he took her back with him because she was so unhappy.
It was a disaster. She would not eat, and grew weak and thin.
He admitted defeat and returned her to the hospital in Spain.
She remained there. She died there. Her grave is unmarked.
After that it seemed to him that nothing more happened.
He went on living in Tangier, translating from Arabic, French
He wrote many short stories, but no novels.
There continued to be more and more people in the world.
And there was nothing anyone could do about anything.