A few months before he died, Beat patriarch Paul Bowles gave a rare interview from his home in Tangier, Morocco. To celebrate his birthday on December 30, we’re republishing Ken Krayeske’s interview with the composer and author from the September, 1999 issue of High Times.
Bookshelves line the living room walls of Paul Bowles’ tiny fourth-floor flat in Tangier, Morocco. Hardcovers and softcovers of his masterpiece The Sheltering Sky in six different languages, dozens of other editions of his novels, collections of short fiction, plays, translations of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit and Moroccan folk tales, fiction by his wife, Jane, and inscribed gifts from friends like Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Truman Capote. Bowles has lived in this home for more than half of his 60 years in Tangier. It’s a long way from Long Island, NY where he was born 88 years ago. He bolted Manhattan in the ’30s, bored with composing Broadway scores, and traveled to Mexico, Thailand and France, where Gertrude Stein advised him to rewrite his poetry and move to Morocco.
The Sahara captured his imagination, and when Jane fell ill in 1957, he stayed. After she died in 1973, he said it was too late to move. Now, he welcomes visitors and journalists alike, accommodating directors like Jennifer Baichwal, whose documentary Let It Came Dawn: The Life of Paul Bowles [Zeitgeist] was released in May. The Beat patriarch was kind enough to give us the following interview.
High Times: The last time I was here, in December ’93, you were smoking kif cigarettes [granulated cannabis mixed with black tobacco]. Do you still smoke kif?
Paul Bowles: No, I stopped two months ago.
Why is that?
No one told me to stop—no doctor or medicine man. I have emphysema. I decided it was time to stop. I …
Author: High Times / High Times