'"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. Endeavoring to escape this predicament, they set off for North Africa ...
'"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. Endeavoring 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.
This book sticks with you for a long time after you've put it back on the shelf.
Port and Kit are a bored married couple, travelling and looking to rekindle their earlier romance. They've brought their friend Tunner along, a seemingly strange choice for a romantic getaway. The strangest choice is that their getaway is to the wild deserts of North Africa - no map, no travel itinerary, no vaccinations. Even more foolishly, they trust every random stranger they meet along the way.
Of course, unpleasant things happen to them.
Sep 30, 2007
Structurally experimental adventure
As Tennessee Williams points out in the introduction, this novel is much more about atmosphere and cultural awareness than it is about character or plot. We are led to believe that the protagonist is a lonely, repressed man travelling with his ebullient wife in North Africa. However, partway through the book, his wife takes center stage. Bowles is able to articulate, through sparse language and a detailed landscape, what it means for Euro-Americans to encounter a North African culture in a post-colonial era. Rather than situate Muslims or Arabs in a "heart of darkness" atmosphere of fear, he infuses them with mystery, assuredness, and self-confidence. It's the white ex-patriots that struggle to feel genuinely, experience intimacy, and lose their self-consciousness in their escape from WWII's devastation. The brilliant title, the "sheltering sky" refers to the feeling the displaced wanderers have that the sky is a mere veil separating them from the horrid, desolate frontier of space. It functions as a fitting metaphor for the characters' alienation from the universe and, ultimately, themselves.
Sep 13, 2007
This novel owns a berth in the pantheon of great novels! Do yourself a favor and read it.
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