Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, January 20, 2014

"A Distant Episode" by Paul Bowles (1947, 12 pages)

I subscribe to several e mail services that notify me of bargain E Books.  About six months ago The Collected Short Stories of Paul Bowles (680 pages with over sixty stories) was on sale for 24 hours only for $1.95 and I could not resist.  (I have gotten the full Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty collections for the same prize.). There is an excellent introduction and the stories are arranged in order of publication, from 1946 to 1993.  Bowles was born in New York City in 1910 and died in Tangiers in 1999.  I think his most famous book of his many is The Sheltering Sky.  He was a figure of the "counter culture" of the 1960s because many of his writings did deal with drug usage.  I think hashish was his drug of choice.  He had many famous friends from Gertrude Stein, William Burroughs to Alan Ginsburg and was married to the superb writer, Jane Bowles.  I have previously posted on Bowles intriguing story from 1946, "By the Water'.  He kind of epitomizes the American expat from a now lost era.

"A Distant Episode" (1947, first published in The Parisian Review) centers on the terrible misfortunes of a European professor of linguistics living in probably Tangiers.  The professor decides he will take a bit if a trip to see if he can learn more about the dialects of nomadic North African tribes.  The professor stops in at a cafe ran by an old friend.  It turns out the friend is dead.  The professor has a bit of a superior bearing and he offends the new cafe manager.  Then he tells him he collects camel udder boxes and offers the man money to help him buy some.  The professor is taken to a sinister seeming place where camel udder boxes can be bought.  The professor begins to fear he has been led  into sinister trap and he is terribly right.  I hope you can one day read this story so I will say only that the professor was sold into slavery which last over a year to a nomadic tribe.  

"A Distant Episode" was a lot of fun to read.  It is perfectly constructed and could if you wanted to be read as a story about colonialism.  The atmosphere is perfect.

Mel u

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