The Sheltering Sky

The Sheltering Sky

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Gabi's Review

Paul Bowles’ astonishing 1949’s classic novel The Sheltering Sky, in which we seamlessly inhabit characters, their environments and dilemmas, reminds us of the transporting power of good fiction.

Port and Kit Moresby, after ten years of marriage, are complacent Americans weighed down more by emotional than physical baggage. They’re travelling to North Africa with no sense of purpose in life, other than to escape the chaos of Europe in the aftermath of the Second Word War. But in pursuing endless distraction, they remain disengaged with the complexities of Arab culture and ultimately fail to escape their ennui.

They also find the continent more troubling and hostile than they had envisioned. As they stray even further from a familiar society, Port becomes increasingly enamoured with the idea of remoteness, while Kit’s inner life becomes increasingly hysterical. Bowles brilliantly explores their complex psychological dramas and the escalating, suffocating tension between them; a tension that is compounded by a third wheel in the relationship, a fellow traveller called Tunner.

In a sudden twist, it is not Port but Kit who experiences the transcendence of isolation, as she traverses the desert, profoundly alone for the first time in her life. Paul Bowles’ book was made into a fairly underwhelming film: gorgeously shot but failing to capture the nuances and complexity of the characters. You won’t regret adding his book to your ‘must read’ selections.

Publisher's Review 

Reissuing in Penguin Modern Classics as part of our Paul Bowles relaunch, with a new introduction by Paul Theroux

'The Sheltering Sky is a book about people on the edge of an alien space; somewhere where, curiously, they are never alone' Michael Hoffman.

Port and Kit Moresbury, a sophisticated American couple, are finding it more than a little difficult to live with each other. Endeavouring to escape this predicament, they set off for North Africa intending to travel through Algeria - uncertain of exactly where they are heading, but determined to leave the modern world behind. The results of this casually taken decision are both tragic and compelling.