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University of Texas at Austin

Paul Bowles:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Bowles, Paul, 1910-1999
Title: Paul Bowles Collection
Dates: 1897-1995
Extent: 11 boxes (4.58 linear feet), 5 oversize boxes (osb), 4 galley folders (gf)
Abstract: Handwritten and typed drafts of short stories, essays, and novels, correspondence, and musical compositions make up the bulk of the collection.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-00479
Language: English
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Center's Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchase and gifts, 1967-1997
Processed by: Chelsea S. Jones and Dell Hollingsworth, 1999

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Paul Frederic Bowles, born December 30, 1910, in New York City, was the only child of Claude Dietz and Rena Winnewisser Bowles. Bowles began writing short stories and composing music as a child, and he was only a teenager when his surrealist poetry was published in the magazine Transition. Bowles briefly attended the University of Virginia but dropped out in 1929 and moved to Paris where he met and became friends with Gertrude Stein. This began over forty years of nearly constant traveling for Bowles, who once said of himself that he was addicted to movement. He returned to the University of Virginia in the spring of 1930, but left again after one semester to study music, first under Aaron Copland in Berlin (1930-32) and then with Virgil Thomson in Paris (1933-34). During these years he also made his first visit, at Stein's suggestion, to Tangier, Morocco. In 1937, Bowles met author and playwright Jane Auer; they were married the following year. The Bowleses eventually settled in Tangier, although both traveled often throughout North Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. At one point Paul even owned Taprobane, an island off the coast of Sri Lanka.
Paul Bowles became a celebrated composer during the 1940s, providing the musical scores for such noted plays as My Heart's in the Highlands (1940), South Pacific (1943), and The Glass Menagerie (1945). He also composed a number of scores for ballets, including Yankee Clipper. At the same time, Bowles wrote travel books on America, Mexico, France, India, and North Africa. From 1942-45, he worked as a music critic for the New York Herald-Tribune. He made translations from French and Spanish for View, and his translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos was published as No Exit in 1946. After reading his wife's Two Serious Ladies (1943), Bowles was inspired to write fiction. He contributed short stories to Harper's Bazaar, View, Mademoiselle, and Partisan Review. Bowles's first novel, The Sheltering Sky (1949), was a best-seller, and it remains his most critically acclaimed work. Over the next decade, Bowles wrote three more novels and developed a reputation as an existential novelist.
In 1956, he began translating Moroccan literature. In the 1960s and 1970s, Bowles primarily translated Moghrebi novels, short stories, and folk tales in collaboration with Mohammed Mrabet. He also returned to writing poetry. In 1970, he founded the literary magazine Antaeus with Daniel Halpern.
Jane Bowles's mental and physical health deteriorated after she suffered a stroke in 1957, and she spent the final years of her life in a hospital in Spain before dying in 1973. During those years, Paul Bowles ceased to write fiction. In the years since his wife's death, Paul Bowles has remained in Morocco; he received two NEH fellowships and began writing fiction and composing again. Bowles died in Tangier on November 19, 1999. More information about Paul Bowles may be found in his autobiography Without Stopping (Putnam, 1972).

Scope and Contents

Handwritten and typed drafts of short stories, essays, and novels, correspondence, and musical compositions make up the bulk of the Paul Bowles Collection, 1897-1995. The collection is organized into four series: Series I. Works, 1923-1976 (6 document cases and 5 oversize boxes); Series II. Correspondence, 1897-1995 (3 boxes); Series III. Personal Papers, 1942-1958 (1 box); and Series IV. Works by other Authors, 1935-1991 (1 box). This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
The Works Series is divided into literary and musical works. Among the literary works are a number of notebooks with drafts of numerous short stories and essays in them, as well as three typescripts of The Sheltering Sky, and several fables and stories translated by Bowles, including "A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard,""M'hashish," and "The Hyena." Musical materials include several sonatas for various instruments, Congo, the Picnic Cantata, and music written to accompany works by Jane Bowles and Tennessee Williams. Both the translation of Federico Lorca's Yerma which Bowles adapted as the libretto for an opera, and the musical score for this opera are also present. All works are listed by title in the Index of Literary Works and Index of Musical Works at the end of this finding aid.
The Correspondence Series, made up of mostly personal communications, is organized into three subseries: Subseries A. Outgoing Correspondence, 1931-1995; Subseries B. Incoming Correspondence, 1928-1969; and Subseries C. Third-party Correspondence, 1897-1967. Outgoing correspondence includes letters from Bowles to family, friends, and acquaintances, Jane Bowles, James Purdy, Tennessee Williams, and others. Incoming Correspondence includes letters from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin, Alan Sillitoe, Virgil Thomson, as well as others. Third-party correspondence is made up of letters between people associated with Bowles, and generally regarding him or his work. Also included in this subseries is a letter, dated 1897, to Edward Green from his Petersham, Massachusetts parish, accepting his resignation. All correspondents are listed in the Index of Correspondence at the end of this finding aid.
The small Personal Papers series contains financial papers, including bank statements, cancelled checks, and income tax returns, a few legal documents, including identity papers and memoranda of agreement, as well as assorted notes and lists.
The Works by other Authors Series contains holograph and typescript manuscripts by Andreas Brown, Oliver Evans, Charles Henri Ford, as well as other friends and acquaintances of Bowles. All authors and titles are listed in the Index of Works by other Authors at the end of this finding aid.
Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are a number of books and music scores from Paul Bowles personal library, recordings of Bowles's music, and ten Vertical Files of printed works by Bowles containing critical commentary of Bowles's literary and musical work, newspaper clippings, theatre programs, book jackets, and other items associated with Bowles's work and career. The Literary Files of the Photography Collection hold over 500 photographs of and by Bowles, his family, friends, and landscape images. Of particular note is the rediscovered music for the Glass Menagerie, located in the Audrey Wood Collection.

Related Material

Other materials associated with Bowles are located at the Ransom Center in the collection of Jane Bowles's biographer, Millicent Dillon, and the following collections:
  • Bowles, Jane
  • Connolly, Cyril
  • Cranston, Maurice
  • Dillon, Millicent
  • Ford, Charles Henri
  • Genesis West
  • Harper's
  • Isherwood, Christopher
  • Jones, Elizabeth
  • Lehmann, John
  • London Magazine
  • Owen, Peter
  • Palmer, Herbert
  • Purdy, James
  • Stein, Gertrude
  • Williams, Tennessee
  • Wood, Audrey
See also the Authorized Paul Bowles Website at:

Index Terms


Bowles, Jane Auer, 1917-1973.
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence.
Ford, Charles Henri.
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997.
Gysin, Brion.
Purdy, James.
Sillitoe, Alan.
Thomson, Virgil, 1896-1989.
Toklas, Alice B.
Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983.


Authors, American--20th century.
Composers--United States.


Tangier (Morocco)--Travel and description.

Document Types

Galley proofs.
Sound recordings.

Paul Bowles Collection--Folder List