An Ecocritical Reading of Paul Bowles's The Sheltering Sky

Hossein Sheikhzadeh, Abdolghafour Bejarzehi


Landscapes are not simply something objective and unchallenged out there but the work of the mind made by the strata of memory. This paper attempts to show that an ecocritical reading of Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky (1949) helps one in better understanding of this novel of post-colonial alienation and existential despair. Bowles is an American writer and a composer who is undoubtedly the most arresting example of cross-cultural influence concerning a Western author and the Middle East and North Africa.  His fiction mostly focuses on American expatriates travelling in exotic locations. The Sheltering Sky is an encounter with the Sahara, not only the physical one but the desert of moral nihilism into which one may wander blindly. The boundless desert acts here as a metaphor and the journey symbolizes one’s own journey into the depth of his/her soul. The desert also projects an apocalyptic vision in the struggle between the West and the East and the Sahara becomes in fact a Conradian Heart of Darkness, an Eliotian Waste Land, and a Sartrean No Exit. In the novel the actual environment becomes in some ways pale and covert under the psyche of the writer. Consequently we come to know that Bowles's own knowledge and awareness of the same environments left traces in his work. Accordingly we may wrap up that the environment bears a direct impact on our understanding of it.



Mind, Landscape, Desert, Ecocriticism, The Sheltering Sky

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