Too Far From Home by Paul Bowles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bowles is famous for his surreal study of foreigners enthralled by Morocco, The Sheltering Sky. He wrote numerous books about the country and other North African nations during his decades of residence in Tangier. Too Far From Home, first published in 1991, was one of his last.
Like many of his works, this follows the lives of foreigners who, for various reasons, have settled in distant places. In this case it’s Anita, a recent divorcee who has come to a remote town on the Niger River to stay with her brother Tom, a painter.
Anita’s reaction to her new setting is mixed. She finds the harsh scenery strangely alluring, but the people disturbing. Her middle-class American racism makes her uncomfortable around the locals, especially Sekou, a minor chief who helps around the house. Soon Anita is dreaming of Sekou, and a run-in with some callous tourists starts a series of events that bind Anita and Sekou in a relationship far closer than the one she initially feared he desired.
All this is told in Bowles’ precise yet dreamy style. This is a short novel, less than a hundred pages, and acts as a good introduction to the master’s writing.
My 1994 Peter Owen edition has some wonderful line drawings by Marguerite McBey, herself a longtime resident of Africa. These sketches really add to the text, so get this edition if you can.
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