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Baptism of Solitude

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Album Review

Bowles is the famous author of The Sheltering Sky and several other novels, not to mention numerous short stories, essays, and poems. His permanent, self-imposed North African exile helped to put that region on the map of Euro-American letters; the influence of Moroccan culture and of the sun-blasted expanses of its desert milieu pervades his writing. Baptism of Solitude is a collection of excerpts read by Bowles himself, accompanied by Bill Laswell's suitably bleak, spacious sound sculptures. There's little music to speak of on this album; instead, as Bowles intones his prose in a laconic, slightly stentorian voice, Laswell lends sonic context to his words with echoey washes and distant, windy howls. The texts are sometimes intensely evocative (as on the title track) and sometimes almost Zen-like in their obscurity, as on "You Are Not I." Others are downright disturbing — one describes matter of factly the sexual mutilation of a young boy by a Bedouin raider. The stark power of Bowles' writing is such that it's hard not to feel parochial in objecting to such stuff on the grounds of taste, but the faint of stomach should take warning. In any case, this is a remarkable debut release from what promises to be an exciting new label.

Customer Reviews

The blood of a poet

I purchased this CD back in 1996 during a particularly low point in my life. The clarity and depth of his writing was remarkable... it spoke gently while calling up stark images, unsettling emotions and primitive wisdom. I loaned the CD to a friend who loaned it to another and haven't seen it since. So glad to have it again... it's well worth a listen, I hope you enjoy it.


Born: December 30, 1910 in New York, NY

Genre: Fiction & Literature

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Paul Bowles studied with Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Nadia Boulanger during the 1920s and early '30s, while living in Europe and North Africa. For the next three decades he wrote music for the New York theater. In 1941 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to compose the opera The Wind Remains. He returned to Tangier in 1948 to write his second opera, Yerma, for blues singer Libby Holman. He conducted ethno-musicological research in Tangier under a Rockefeller grant in 1959. It resulted in a...
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Baptism of Solitude, Paul Bowles
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