Vol. 19, No. 9Oct. 28, 1999

Library acquires literary papers of eminent modern writer

From left, Timothy Murray, Francis Poole and Susan Brynteson inspect
boxes from Morocco filled with the papers of Paul Bowles, who is pictured at right.

The University of Delaware Library has acquired a large collection of the literary papers of the American expatriate writer and composer Paul Bowles. By arrangement with the author, the collection includes thousands of items including letters, manuscripts, revisions of manuscripts, translations, publishers' reports, memorabilia and numerous other items housed for many years in the author's home in Tangier, Morocco.

UD library staff traveled to Morocco to negotiate the disposition of Bowles' papers with the author.

Susan Brynteson, UD director of libraries, said obtaining the papers was a high point for the library and the culmination of a longtime friendship between the author and the library. "The papers document the career of one of the most distinctive voices in modern literature," she said.

Bowles was born in New York City on Dec. 10, 1910. Since the 1940s, he has written numerous works of fiction, essays, translations, travel writing, poems, and other works. Among Bowles' best-known fictional works are the novels, The Sheltering Sky (1949), Let It Come Down (1952), The Spider's House (1955); and his initial short story collection, The Delicate Prey and Other Stories (1950). A film of The Sheltering Sky was made in 1991 starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

Bowles also has had a prominent career as a composer. He studied with both Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson and during the 1930s and 1940s became one of the preeminent composers of American theatre music.

In 1938, he married the former Jane Auer, who under her married name of Jane Bowles, became an accomplished author. The couple spent much of their married life traveling throughout the world and in the late 1940s made Tangier, Morocco, their permanent home. Major figures in the world of letters and the arts frequently visited them there. Jane Bowles died in 1973.

The UD Library has maintained a longtime relationship with Bowles and has acquired over the years from a variety of sources an important collection of materials, including correspondence, manuscripts, editorial matter, periodicals, ephemera, and miscellaneous material. In 1990, the Library mounted an exhibition of printed and manuscript materials entitled, "Paul Bowles at 80."

After many years of corresponding with Bowles and meeting with him, on numerous occasions, Timothy Murray, head of the Special Collections Department, and Francis Poole, associate librarian, who was a former resident of Tangier and a longtime friend of Bowles, were invited to visit him in Tangier to discuss the disposition of his literary papers.

Murray described their two visits to Tangier in March and September of 1999 as "adventures in discovery" adding, "It has been a great privilege and certainly a professional highlight to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Bowles on this effort. Without his support and encouragement we could not have achieved our objective."

The UD visitors had many lengthy discussions with Bowles in his home and, with the help of his assistant Abdelhouaid Boulaich, were able to pack up and transport to Delaware scores of boxes filled to the brim.

Murray noted that the UD Library will mount an important exhibition in late 2000 to be called "Paul Bowles at 90," which will contain items from the Bowles papers. While in Tangier, Poole interviewed Bowles, on videotape, which will be added to the Paul Bowles Archive.

President David Roselle said, "The Paul Bowles Archive will be a great resource for scholars and students who wish to do research related to this major American writer."

Provost Mel Schiavelli said, "These new Paul Bowles papers join an already distinguished collection of Bowles papers."

The new materials are currently being processed and should be available to researchers within two years, Murray said. "Having the papers publicly available is a boon for scholars and researchers and a fitting tribute to this remarkable writer," he added.

-Beth Thomas
Photo by Jack Buxbaum