A mystic quest in the sheltering country : an investigation into Paul Bowles's literary image of Morocco

Bouachrine, Assila (2014) A mystic quest in the sheltering country : an investigation into Paul Bowles's literary image of Morocco. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Paul Bowles (1910-1999) was an American writer who restlessly travelled throughout the world until he finally chose Morocco as a country of permanent residence. He settled in Tangier from 1947 until his death in November 1999. Paul Bowles’s work as a whole includes writings set in the different countries he travelled to but the bulk of his literary production is essentially Moroccan in themes, characters and settings. This dissertation attempts to investigate Paul Bowles’s mystic quest in Morocco as a sheltering home and the reasons why this country retained him for a lifelong expatriation. It also demonstrates the impact Morocco exerted on the fulfilment of the writer’s quest in Morocco. In short, this study analyses the reasons why Morocco became the writer’s adopted and sheltering home and the extent to which it fulfilled his mystic quest. My study is a text based analysis involving Paul Bowles’s fiction, autobiographies, travel essays and interviews.

This research has been conducted in the light of different methods, namely the comparative method of investigation, the psychoanalytical approaches of Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva and others when appropriate and of J.Olney’s and G.Gusdorf theories of autobiography.

The comparative method of investigation analyses the different contextual influences that shape the expatriate’s image of Morocco and show the extent to which the writer was receptive to the different world cultural and movements, in addition to the author’s familial, American and Moroccan influential contexts.

Bowles’s literary production as a whole includes writings set in the different countries where he resided for different periods of time. A significant element of my study is then the analysis of the autobiographical cohesion and centrality that subtend the writer’s work as a whole. This part is mostly conducted in the light of J.Olney’s and G. Gusdorf theories of Autobiography. The cohesion and centrality linking Paul Bowles’s life and work reveal the Moroccan specificities as well as the cultural and spiritual ethos that retained him for a definite expatriation and contributed to the fulfilment of his mystic quest. In the contexts of J. Lacan’s and J. Kristeva’s psychoanalytical theories, the image of Morocco is also revealed as the projection of Paul Bowles’s psyche, as the metaphor of his self-recovery and definition and finally of his aspirations at transcendence.

Paul Bowles’s adoption of Morocco was to a significant extent due to his uncompromising and sheer fascination by Moroccan Nature, scenery and cosmic elements. This appeal induced and, to a great extent, contributed to the fulfilment of the writer’s mystic quest in the context of Pantheism. I have therefore analysed Paul Bowles’s quest in the light of Ibn-al-Arabi’s Pantheism and of other mystical philosophies as appropriate. Thus, the final chapter of this investigation has been devoted to Paul Bowles’s mystic Morocco as the sheltering realm of his mystic quest.

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