My friend Kennedy reminded me to read Paul Bowles prior to this trip. I already have ‘The Sheltering Sky’ at the ready on the iPad for the flight over but I am also inspired to post a few Paul Bowles’ quotes:
“He did not think of himself as a tourist; he was a traveler. The difference is partly one of time, he would explain. Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging no more to one place than the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another… another important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking…” – Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
“Immediately when you arrive in Sahara, for the first or the tenth time, you notice the stillness. An incredible, absoulte silence prevails outside the towns; and within, even in busy places like the markets, there is a hushed quality in the air, as if the quiet were a conscious force which, resenting the intrusion of sound, minimizes and disperses sound straightway. Then there is the sky, compared to which all other skies seem fainthearted efforts. Solid and luminous, it is always the focal point of the landscape. At sunset, the precise, curved shadow of the earth rises into it swiftly from the horizon, cutting into light section and dark section. When all daylight is gone, and the space is thick with stars, it is still of an intense and burning blue, darkest directly overhead and paling toward the earth, so that the night never really goes dark.
You leave the gate of the fort or town behind, pass the camels lying outside, go up into the dunes, or out onto the hard, stony plain and stand awhile alone. Presently, you will either shiver and hurry back inside the walls, or you will go on standing there and let something very peculiar happen to you, something that everyone who lives there has undergone and which the French call ‘le bapteme de solitude.’ It is a unique sensation, and it has nothing to do with loneliness, for loneliness presupposes memory. Here in this wholly mineral landscape lighted by stars like flares, even memory disappears…A strange, and by no means pleasant, process of reintergration begins inside you, and you have the choice of fighting against it, and insisting on remaining the person you have always been, or letting it takes its course. For no one who has stayed in the Sahara for a while is quite the same as when he came.
…Perhaps the logical question to ask at this point is: Why go? The answer is that when a man has been there and undergone the baptism of solitude he can’t help himself. Once he has been under the spell of the vast luminous, silent country, no other places is quite strong enough for him, no other surroundings can provide the supremely satisfying sensation of existing in the midst of something that is absolute. He will go back, whatever the cost in time or money, for the absolute has no price.”
― Paul Bowles, Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue: Scenes from the Non-Christian World
“Пожалуй, огромное различие состояло в том, что Запад оказывался гуманнее: он предусматривал для своих пациентов анестезию, в то время как Восток, принимая страдание как нечто само собой разумеещеся, устремлялся навтречу грядущему кошмару с предельным равнодушием к боли.”
― Paul Bowles, Spider’s House (I couldn’t resist putting this in here!)