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Paul Bowles in Morocco & Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin, Isabelle Eberhardt, William S. Burroughs, Yves Saint Laurent
Paul Bowles in Morocco
Paul Frederic Bowles was an American expatriate composer, author, and translator born in Queens, New York on December 30, 1910 whose journey as a prominent music composer and highly respected literary writer led him to travel to Morocco and live in Morocco. Paul Bowles was the last surviving representative of a generation of artists whose work has shaped 20th century literature and music. Among those lives that intersected with Paul Bowles during the “beat generation” were Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Aaron Copeland and Gertrude Stein.
Following a cultured middle-class upbringing in New York City Paul Bowles displayed a talent for music compositions and literary writing. Paul Bowles attended the University of Virginia before making various trips to Paris in the 1930s. During college Paul Bowles was characterized as a unique and intelligent individual who preferred to keep to himself. In the midst of his college years, he quietly set sail for Paris where he worked briefly as a switchboard operator at the Herald Tribune but soon returned to New York, taking a job at Dutton's Bookshop on Fifth Avenue. Paul Bowles also studied music with the composer, Aaron Copland and in New York wrote music for various theatrical productions, as well as other compositions.
Paul Bowles achieved critical and popular acclaim with the publication of his first novel The Sheltering Sky, in 1949 set in French North Africa. The Sheltering Sky was later filmed in 1990 by Bernardo Bertolucci. The film was shot in Morocco (Tangier and Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazate) as well as Algeria and Niger and features actors Deborah Winger John Malkovich and Timothy Spall. The Sheltering Sky tells a dangerous and erotic journey of an American artist couple, Port and Kit Mores, and their aimless travels through Africa in search of new experiences.
In 1947 Paul Bowles settled in Tangier, Morocco, and his wife, Jane Bowles followed in 1948. Except for winters spent in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) during the early 1950's Tangier, Morocco was his home for the remainder of his life. Paul Bowles died in 1999 at the age of 88 and is buried in upstate New York. Paul Bowles produced numerous musical scores, four novels, more than sixty short stories, many travel pieces and dozens of translations of stories by Moroccan storytellers.
When Paul Bowles poetry began to appear in the Paris-based surrealist magazine, Transition, he met and worked alongside Andre Breton, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein. Through Stein's circle, Bowles also met Jean Cocteau, Ezra Pound, Virgil Thompson, Pavel Tchelitchew and Andre Gide, before going with Copland to Berlin. It was Gertrude Stein who recommended that Paul Bowles visit and travel to Morocco. In Morocco, Bowles trekked across the Sahara by camel and then rented a house in Tangier, using it as a studio for piano composition. Eventually Paul Bowles reputation as a composer led him to create the Broadway productions, Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine; the stage version of South Pacific; Jacobowsky and the Colonel, directed by Elia Kazan; and John Ford's Jacobean tragedy 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. Altogether, Bowles created 150 original musical compositions.
In 1947 Paul Bowles had a vivid dream about Morocco and returned to Tangier, this time with his wife, Jane Bowles. During the time of WWII, Tangier was recognized as an "international zone" known for its liberal morals and hippy lifestyle. Paul and Jane Bowles thrived on this as it fueled their marriage and his writings. In 1973 Janes Bowles passed away.
After his wife’s death, Paul Bowles wrote many short stories and novels such Let It Come Down, centered on the Moroccan capital and the corruption of life under the international zone. In the Spider's House, Bowles used the novel, which opens in 1954 during the holy month of Ramadan, to explore the shifting relationship between the colonial power of the French and the rising tide of Moroccan nationalism. Up Above the World, his final novel, concerns the doomed trajectory of an American couple in an unnamed Central American country. Bowles compared it to the writings of Graham Greene and Gide, calling it "light" entertainment, which it is not.
Paul Bowles went on to publish several short-story collections, including A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard, set in Morocco and with an underlying theme of kif smoking. Other works include the Morocco travel writing of Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue; Points in Time, a journey through the Moroccan centuries; and an enigmatic autobiography, Without Stopping, dubbed "Without Telling" by William Burroughs. A novel, Too Far From Home, set in Mali, was well received upon publication in 1994.
In later years, Paul Bowles translated a number of Moroccan oral storytellers including Mohammed Mrabet, Mohamed Choukri, Abdeslam Boulaich and Larbi Layachi.
Through his books Bowles created a unique vision of Morocco. As he aged, he continued to live in the same run-down Tangier apartment block, the Immeuble Itesa, receiving visitors and fans from around the world. Paul Bowles remains as one of the leading composers and literary figures of his generation who honored Morocco, its people and culture with great passion and respect. As an homage to Paul Bowles, a Morocco Travel adventure to all of the places he visited, write and traveled to in Morocco is a great way to discover in his footsteps and to create your own unique Morocco Travel journey.
Allen Ginsberg in Morocco
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet born on June 3, 1926. Ginsberg is best known for the poem Howl (1956), celebrating his friends who were members of the Beat Generation and attacking what he saw as the destructive forces of materialism and conformity in the United States.
Ginsberg was a spiritual seeker, a founding member of a major literary movement, champion of human and civil rights, photographer and songwriter, political gadfly, teacher and co-founder of a poetics school.
As a student at Columbia University in New York in the 1950s, Ginsberg fell in with rebel writers such as Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. He travelled to San Francisco, where his 1955 public reading of Howl launched the poem as a counterculture hit. “The Howl” is one of Ginsberg's principal works and well-known for its opening line: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked..." The Howl" was considered scandalous at the time of its publication, because of the rawness of its language. The banning and censorship of the poem eventually provoked Ginsberg to leave San Francisco for Europe and Morocco. He spent several months in Tangier with writers from the Beat Generation and then flew to Paris. Together with Burroughs, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, Ginsberg worked on another poetic masterpiece, “The Kaddish”. The Kaddish tells a heartbreaking biography of his mother, Naomi Ginsberg, who spent most of her adult life in a state of mental torment.
During the 1960s Ginsberg became one of the more prominent figures in the American anti-war movement, as he also joined love-ins, took LSD, and generally grabbed every opportunity to harass the authorities. Still, his anger and rebellion were perceived as generally good-natured, and in 1974 he won the National Book Award for The Fall of America: Poems of These States, 1965-1971. In his later years he served as a kind of Grand Old Man of pop counterculture, even appearing in a video for MTV in 1996.
Ginsberg is particularly known for attacking the destructive forces and conformity in the United States which he addressed with his two masterpiece poems. The foundation of Ginsberg’s work was the notion that one’s individual thoughts and experiences resonated among the masses. “It occurs to me that I am America”, Ginsberg wrote, and while the statement was intended to be humorous, it also illustrated his idea that democracy begins with the raising of a single voice. At the height of his celebrity, Allen Ginsberg was, arguably, as symbolic of America — or at lease a large segment of the country — as anyone.
Ginsberg wrote “Sunflower Sutra” valuing human beauty, in America and wrote a satire on American values; in “Wichita Vortex Sutra” whereby he denounces the Vietnam War. In “Wales Visitation” he celebrates nature. Ginsberg interconnected poems of The Fall of America also won him the National Book Award.
His fame and connection eventually enabled him to enter to the music industry. Ginsberg recorded a handful of albums, including music he had written to accompany William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience and two separate recordings known as First Blues. He and neo-classical composer Philip Glass set portions of “Howl” and “Wichita Vortex Sutra” to music. Over the years, Ginsberg appeared on stage with a diverse group of musicians, including Bob Dylan, The Fugs, Phil Ochs, the Clash and Patti Smith. Shortly before his death, Ginsberg recorded “Ballad of the Skeletons” with an eclectic lineup of musicians that included Glass, Lenny Kaye, Marc Ribot and Paul McCartney; the accompanying video, filmed by award-winning director Gus Van Sant, was both humorous and poignant.
Brion Gysin in Morocco
Brion Gysin was a painter, writer, sound poet, and performance artist born in Buckinghamshire, England on June 9th 1916. Gysin is remembered for his evocative paintings of the North African desert and his original calligraphic abstractions inspired by Japanese and Arabic scripts. He is best known for his discovery of the cut-up technique (literary technique in which a text is cut up at random and rearranged to create new text) used by William S. Burroughs. Gysin along with Ian Somerville also invented the Dreamachine, a flicker device designed as an art object to be viewed with the eyes closed.
Gysin’s original ideas were a source of inspiration for artists of the Beat Generation in Paris and performers such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Keith Haring, and Laurie Anderson.
Gysin was schooled in Canada until 1932 and then in 1934 he moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. There he met his first literary and artistic contacts through Sylvia Beach and associated with Max Ernst, Meret Oppenheimer, Valentine Hugo, Salvador and Gala Dali, Dora Maar and Picasso as a member of the Surrealist Group until he was expelled in 1938. Upon his dismissal Gysin fled to Greece and then took his first trip to the Sahara desert. Upon returning to Paris, he had his first one man show at Galerie Quatre Chemins and then moved to New York City the following year where he began to assist with Irene Sharaff’s Broadway musicals. In 1943 he joined the US and Canadian armies. These experiences led him to write the biography of Josiah Henson (Uncle Tom): To Master a Long Goodnight, followed by The History of Slavery in Canada.
In 1946, he spent eighteen months in Japan and then traveled around India. Shortly after, Gysin received one of the first Fulbright Fellowships to France, where researched the history of slavery, at the
University of Bordeaux and the Archivos de India, in Seville, Spain.
A gifted draughtsman, he took an 18-month course in Japanese language studies and calligraphy that would greatly influence his artwork. In 1949, he was among the first Fulbright Fellows. His goal: to research the history of slavery at the University of Bordeaux and in the Archivos de India in Seville, Spain, a project that he later abandoned.
In 1950, Gysin moved to Tangier after visiting the city with novelist and composer Paul Bowles. Using Morocco’s dramatic climate and Sahara desert as his source of inspiration, he exhibited a one man show in Tangier’s Hotel Rembrandt: called Carnet de Voyage au Sahara. In Tangier, Gysin co-founded with Mohamed Hamri a restaurant called "The 1001 Nights" with the Master Musicians of Joujoukafrom the village of Jajouka. The musicians performed there for an international clientèle that included William S. Burroughs.
In 1953 Gysin had his first encounter with William S. Burroughs at "The 1001 Nights, and went on to collaborate with on many projects with him. During this same year he exhibited at the museum of Las Palmas and Tenerifeand pursued studies in Arab calligraphy. After Morocco’s independence in 1956, Gysin began a series of collaborations with artists, poets and performers and stayed active in the arts, exhibiting his work and performing in Paris, New York, Chicago, Rome and London until he died in 1986.
Isabelle Eberhardt in North Africa
Isabelle Eberhardt was a Swiss-Algerian explorer and writer, born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1877, who lived and travelled extensively in North Africa. For the time she was an extremely liberated individual who rejected conventional European morality in favor of her own path and that of Islam. She died in a flash flood in the desert at the age of 27.
During the course of her lifetime, Eberhardt’s captivating stories of her experiences disguised as a man on horseback through the Sahara desert and befriending the mysterious Bedouin tribes made her a poster child the exoticism of the Arabic world.
Eberhardt’s had a unique family that was characterized by an Armenian born step father, Alexandre Trophimowsky, who was an anarchist, ex- priest and convert to Islam and an aristocraticLutheran Baltic German/Russian mother, Nathalie Moerder (née Eberhardt). This allowed Eberhardt to experience an unconventional and liberal upbringing greatly different from her peers which molded her legacy in the Arab world.
At age twenty, Eberhardt, accompanied by her mother, took her first trip to Northern Africa where they both converted to the Wahabi sect of Islam. Eberhardt fell in love with Algerian culture and society. However, her mother died suddenly in Annaba and was buried there under the name of Fatma Mannoubia. Shortly after her mother's death, Isabelle took the side of local Muslims in violent fighting against colonial rule by the French. Two years later Isabelle returned to Geneva and her step father, Trophimowsky died of throat cancer in 1899.
Despite this, Isabelle was well educated, becoming fluent in Arabic and many other languages. From an early age she dressed as a man in order to enjoy the greater freedom this allowed her. Dressed as a man, calling herself Si Mahmoud Essadi, Eberhardt travelled in Arab society, with a freedom she could not otherwise have experienced. She had converted to Islam and regarded it as her true calling in life.
She also joined the Qadiriyya, a radical Sufi brotherhood who opposed colonial rule and through her writing began to support the Arab liberation struggle.
Eberhardt declared that she felt much more a Muslim than she ever did an anarchist and wrote articles to denounce the rule of the French in Algeria and romantic prose pieces about the beauty of traditional Arab culture.
Yet, despite Eberhardt’s dedication to Islam and the Qadiriyya, she was occasionally promiscuous and would sometimes indulge in alcohol and marijuana. Eberhardt’s strong free-will is considered to be a result of her anarchist roots and her naturally strong character.
Eberhardt channeled her emotions through her diaries and novels and passed on her unique experiences by working as a reporter. She wrote on her travels in many books and French newspapers, including Nouvelles Algériennes ("Algerian News", Dans l'Ombre Chaude de l'Islam ("In the Hot Shade of Islam") (1906), and Les journaliers ("The Day Laborers") (1922). She started working as a war reporter in the South of Oran in 1903. While she romanticized her writings and work,Eberhardt was a great resource for the western world with regards to explaining the life and culture of Northern Africa.
While appreciated and thought to be intriguing, Eberhardt’s controversial behavior sometimes upset people, especially some Muslims. In 1901 she was attacked by a local Algerian hired to kill her while praying at a mosque. Even though Eberhardt’s arm was nearly severed, she demonstrated deep and a strong character by defending her assassin in court and successfully pleaded for his life.
Isabelle married Slimane Ehnni, an Algerian soldier, on October 17, 1901, in Marseille. After a long separation, her husband decided to join her and she rented a house for this occasion. Then, tragically at the age of twenty-seven on October 21, 1904, Eberhardt died in a flash flood in Aïn Séfra, Algeria. The house, constructed of clay, collapsed in the flood and her husband later died in 1907.
Paul Bowles has translated some of Eberhardt’s work into English. The Oblivion Seekers (City Lights Publishing, 1975) consists of 13 different short pieces translated by Bowles and was published in 1972.
William S. Burroughs in Morocco
William Seward Burroughs II was born in 1914 to a prominent family in Saint Louis, Missouri. Burroughs was an American novelist, essayist, social critic, painter and spoken word performer. Much of Burroughs's work is semi-autobiographical, drawn from his experiences as an opiate addict. A primary member of the Beat Generation, Burroughs was an avant-garde author who affected popular culture as well as literature.
His grandfather William Seward Burroughs founded the Burroughs Adding Machine company. Burroughs's mother, Laura Hammon Lee, was the daughter of a minister whose family claimed to be related to Robert E. Lee. His maternal uncle, Ivy Lee, was an advertising pioneer later employed as a publicist for the Rockefellers. His father, Mortimer Perry Burroughs, ran an antique and gift shop, Cobblestone Gardens; first in St. Louis, then in Palm Beach, Florida.
During his youth Burroughs struggled to keep his sexual identity a secret using and kept journals documenting an erotic attachment to another boy. He kept his sexual orientation concealed well into adulthood when, paradoxically, he became a well known homosexual writer after the publication of Naked Lunch in 1959.
After graduating from Harvard, his family provided him with financial support and he moved to Vienna, Austria where he pursued a medical degree and explored his sexuality. Shortly after returning home he enlisted in the U.S. Army, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but was rejected on claims that he was mentally unstable.
Burroughs began living with Joan Vollmer Adams in an apartment they shared with writer Jack Kerouac and Edie Parker, Kerouac's first wife. Vollmer Adams was married to a GI with whom she had a young daughter, Julie Adams. Burroughs and Joan Vollmer had a common law marriage but became addicted to drugs and split up.
Burrough’s lived under house arrest with his parents while Vollumer was committed to Bellevue Hospital. Once recovered Burroughs convinced Vollumer and her daughter to move to Texas where they had a son, William Burroughs III. Their next stop, the Big Easy, both moved to New Orleans and then to Mexico, continually caught up in drugs. In 1951, tragedy struck and Burroughs accidentally shot his wife to death in Mexico while they were playing a drunken game at a party. Disgusted with himself, Burroughs threw himself into writing. Although he completed his first two novels in Mexico, it was not until he killed Vollmer that he came to a conclusion that he would not have become a writer if it were not for Jones death.
Inspired by Paul Bowles’ writing, Burroughs moved to Tangier in 1954 where he indulged in a hippy lifestyle and spent four years working on the Naked Lunch. Eventually, Ginsberg and Kerouac, who traveled to Tangier in 1957, helped Burroughs type, edit, and arrange these episodes into Naked Lunch. It was Naked Lunch that exposed Burroughs as a homosexual writer. Burroughs alsotried to write commercial articles about Tangier. It wasn’t until 1989 when he published the Interzone, and these Moroccan short stories were accessible to the public.
Burroughs continued to live nomadically and write prolifically throughout the 60’s. Then he returned to New York in the 1974 and met James Grauerholz, who became Burroughs' life manager, helping him to organize and publish his writings. Burroughs moved to Lawrence, Kansas with Grauerholz where he was s inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In August 1997 Burroughs died of a heart attack in at 83.
Yves Saint Laurent in Morocco
Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, known as Yves Saint Laurent, was an Algerian born French fashion designer who is considered one of the greatest figures in French fashion of the 20th century. He is quoted to have drawn his style from the body of a woman because that is where his ideas and vitality came from. Laurent was one of the most celebrated and influential designers of the past twenty-five years because he changed forever what women wear, introducing trouser suits, safari jackets and sweaters.
Laurent was born on August 1st, 1936 in Oran, Algeria which at the time was French colony. His family was among the most prominent in Oran. Laurent’s father, Charles, a descendant of Baron Mathieu de Mauvières (who officiated at the wedding of Napoleon Bonaparte and Joséphine de Beauharnais), was the president of an insurance company and the owner of a chain of movie theatres. His mother, Lucienne-Andrée (née Wilbaux), the daughter of a Belgian engineer and Spanish wife, passed her sense of fashion and style on to her Yves. Laurent was the oldest child and had two female siblings.
Unlike most French children, Yves and his sisters were not directly affected by World War II, since their father did not have to server and Algeria was far enough away from France that it was spared the worst of its defeat and the occupation of the Nazis. Yves found a refuge at home, where his parents allowed him to use an empty room to act out performances of plays by Molière and Giraudoux for his family. He also devoured the theatre reviews in the French magazine Vogue, and became fascinated by the descriptions of the plays and the costumes.
Yves first earned attention for his talent in 1950 when three sketches he entered into a contest for young fashion designers organized by the International Wool Secretariat won him the third prize and an invitation to the awards ceremony in Paris. Shortly after his second win at the International Wool Secretariat Yves was recognized by Dior. After working a few years on mundane tasks at the House of Dior, his sketches were accepted for couture collections.
At the age of 21, Dior died of a heart attack and Yves found himself as the head designer of the House of Dior. His spring 1958 collection is said to have saved the House from financial ruin and he was catapulted to international stardom.
During the 1960s and 1970s Saint Laurent was considered one of Paris's "jet set". He was often seen at clubs in France and New York such as Regine's and Studio 54. When he was not actively supervising the preparation of a collection, though, he spent time at his second home in Marrakech, Morocco.
Yves Saint Laurent maintained the subtropical Majorelle Garden located in within the Imperial city of Marrakech and made it famous abroad. In I886 Jacques Majorelle, a painter acquired the grounds which were going to become the Majorelle Garden. In 1947 Jacques opened the garden's doors to the public and then what followed, was a tragic car accident which leads to his death in France. Then, in 1980 Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent repurchased the garden and restored it.
The colors and light of the garden were the workshop of Jacques Majorelle, as well as an inspiration and place of contemplation. Today, the garden’s museum shelters the magnificent art Islamic Art Collection of Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent. Within the Majorelle Garden lies a combination of a luxurious vegetation of desert flora, fauna and cactus alongside architectural elements allying sobriety and a traditional Moroccan aesthetic. The power of the blue Majorelle participates in the freshness impression and of quietude.
Laurent retired in 2002 due to illness and became increasingly reclusive, living at his homes in Normandy and Morocco. He died on June 1st 2008 of brain cancer. His funeral was held in Parisand attended by 800 mourners from across the world. Among the guests at the church were fashion designers Jean-Paul Gaultier, Hubert de Givenchy, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood as well as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Saint Laurent's 95-year-old mother, Lucienne. The ashes of Yves Saint Laurent have been scattered in the Majorelle Garden of his villa in Marrakech.
His partner Bergé said during the funeral service: “But I also know that I will never forget what I owe you, and that one day I will join you under the Moroccan palms.” Saint Laurent took the essence of the Moroccan Djellaba and the colors of Marrakech, and incorporated it in his work.