cover image Unwelcome Words

Unwelcome Words

Paul Bowles. Tombouctou Books, $8 (88pp) ISBN 978-0-939180-44-8

Bowles is convinced ""that the human world has entered into a terminal period of disintegration and destruction.'' His pessimism is manifested in the common themes of these seven short storiesinsanity and death, both of which reflect ``the decay of civilization.'' Despite their different settings, the tales are all obsessed with the deviant side of human behavior, be it torture, poisoning, vampirism, suicide, murder. Five of these pieces are set in Morocco, where a racist attitude toward the indigenous populations is apparent. Clearly, in Bowles's view, to these ``uncivilized'' people, death by violent means is the norm. European and American foreigners are at the mercy of the natives unless, as Bowles implies, they create their own separate enclaves apart from the Moslems. Insanity is the basis for most of these stories and, interestingly, is confined to women. Ten out of his 12 female characters are nagging, hysterical, mentally ill or suicidal, the doomed victims of weak psyches. Finally, it is noteworthy that three of the stories are compelling stream-of-consciousness monologues, a pleasant change from Bowles's (Points in Time, etc.) otherwise bland observations. The pieces originally appeared in Conjunctions and the Boston Globe, among others. (May)