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review The Spider's House Ö eBook or Kindle ePUB Æ Set in Fez Morocco during that country's 1954 nationalist uprising The Spider's House is perhaps Paul Bowles's most beautifully subtle novel richly descriptive of its setting and uncompromising in its characterizations Exploring once again the dilemma of the outsider in an alien socEnt themes of Paul Bowles's writings The Spider's House is dramatic brutally honest and shockingly relevant to today's political situation in the Middle East and elsewher. In Spider's House Paul Bowles leaves behind the moral lessons of meddling American's and decides to focus truly on the events of Morocco Set during their revolution against the French the story follows two strands that of an illiterate but intelligent native boy and that of an American novelist and his cohorts at differing times living in the country for the last five yearsThe book is at its strongest when telling from the perspective of the Moroccan boy He is interesting and uniue both a product of his culture and independant from it the way the best characters are While the American's story provides most of the context for the revolution it is weakest because it presents pretty much a tired and seen before narrativeWhat is best however about the story is that everyone is wrong The book is filled with misconceptions misunderstandings and flat out biases No one is spared from Bowles' criticism as even the most kind hearted and giving person is full of it at points and flat out incorrect at others To those that loved The Sheltering Sky this novel may not work as well Whereas that first novel was reminiscent of the Sahara sun spare and harsh this one is steeped in Fez dense and layered without the sense of clarity It is muddled but in the way that people are muddled I would say it's a better book but many disagree

Paul Bowles ✓ 3 characters

Ting and uncompromising in its characterizations Exploring once again the dilemma of the outsider in an alien society and the gap in understanding between cultures recurr. It has been about two years since i read this book so i won't go into too much plot detail but i will instead share some of my impressions of the bookThis book was written circa 1956 58 by Paul Bowles an American author who spent most of his adult life living in Morocco The book unsurprisingly takes place in Morocco on the eve of the revolution in which the Moroccans won their independence from France The story follows a young Moroccan and an American author simultaneously and depicts what happens when their paths crossBowles writes with a rather straight forward almost journalistic style painting a decidedly unsympathetic picture of his characters The book is ultimately about the differing values of the Moroccan people and their desire for sovereignty and those of the westerners depicted in the story who wish to see the charms of colonial Morocco remain intact an outcome not likely to occur under self rule The author's third person voice and unemotional delivery effectively express the conflict between these cultures and allow the reader ample room to establish an informed opinion even with little or no other knowledge of Moroccan historyThe story doesn't have outer worldly plot twists like Vonnegut certainly isn't at all romantic like Fitzgerald and doesn't ask you to put on a funny accent when reading it like Trainspotting Neither is it a particularly uick read but it is an engaging thoughtful book that will at once get you intimately acuainted with an exotic and beautiful locale while gently and subtly encouraging you to consider an ethical and socio political stance you likely haven't considered beforeand all without seeming too sententious On this last point Bowles earns my respect for executing this literary balancing act about as perfectly as can be done

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The Spider's HouseSet in Fez Morocco during that country's 1954 nationalist uprising The Spider's House is perhaps Paul Bowles's most beautifully subtle novel richly descriptive of its set. I've been trying to figure out how to review this book Bowles is one of the most challenging novelists I've read I read him and I respond to the ideas and concepts emotionally and with a visceral understanding and empathy than intellectually The plots characters dialogue leave me flummoxed but no less entranced I now love the two novels I've read The Sheltering Sky and this one although I'm convinced that I truly comprehend only about 10 or 15 percent of each one Both take place in North Africa The Sheltering Sky's setting is a little elusive in keeping with its greater philosophical and surreal bent; I think Morocco Algeria and Tunisia or maybe all three iirc this one is Morocco just after the French overthrow of the Sultan and the Moslem I'll go with Bowles' spelling here response led by the nascent Istalal nationalist partyBowles was a US expat writer who lived most of his life in Morocco Both TSS and this novel and from the looks of it his other writings too provide a vivid tactile feel for the area As another of his book's descriptions says they bring us closer to a world we freuently hear about but often find difficult to understand Without that is actually helping us understand which is a big part of their charm for me at least Bowles is as I said challenging and by that I mean he forces you to confront your own ignorance and preconceptions about these places and cultures that are essentially foreign at least or especially to North AmericansThe novels and this one in particular throw a sharp light on the otherness of the place and people it describes otherness that is from the POV of a Western reader; not only the physical landscape which figures prominently but here in The Spider's House the cultural religious and political ones That sense of disconnection that lack of understanding play directly into its themes this novel is largely about the yawning gulf between the Judao Christian and Moslem worldviewsIncidentally and this is key the title refers to a passage from The Koran “The likeness of those who choose other patrons than Allah is as the likeness of the spider when she taketh unto herself a house and lo The frailest of all houses is the spider’s house if they but knew” The Spider's House was published in 1954 but it reads today with as much contemporary relevance as though it was published this year Indeed it seems prescient The events although specific and localized in the novel seem to represent any of the endless repeated ever to be repeated conflicts that consume our headlines today The ancient origins and shape of the forces at play; the tenor and evolution of the escalating conflict; the context in which these forces took root grew and flowered into violence terror and war are laid out hereThe book's POV ie the central character Stenham's a US expat writer living and travelling in Morocco natch is jaded and unflinchingly accusatory of the colonial forces that were and are and will continue in his mind to corrupt by transforming modernizing Westernizing the essential beauty and purity of the Moslem faith and culture He sees this knows it is inevitable and rages against it and his impotence in the face of it in true Bowles fashion this kind of culturalpolitical impotence is rendered as a cynical nihilistic detonation of the soul; very personal very existentialHe also condemns the post colonial liberal democratic response through the character of Mme Veyron aka Polly aka Lee Burroughs she has a lot of names; is that intentional a Paris based American born divorcée with all the stereotypical implications of that word; this is after all 1954 seeking to engage with the culture through adventurous travel but embodying all the worst of Western naivete ignorance and cultural insensitivityAt the same time and this is a neat trick Stenham both idealizes and disparages the Moslem culture and its response to the events an idealization that grows increasingly shaky and eventually evaporates as a result of his encounter with Amar an illiterate and impoverished Moslem teenager and a devoted adherent to IslamThe closer that Stenham gets into direct contact with Morocco and the factions as they break into all out war with each other the less clear his own ideological position And ain't that always the way it goesAlthough it probably wasn't his intent Bowles has written in Amar the most compelling and dare I say understandable portrait of how colonial oppression poverty and religious fundamentalism collide to create the perfect crucible for birthing jihadist extremismUnderstandable believable although I really don't know how accurate or true Leaving me mystifed muddled confused so basically the same way I feel reading coverage of these same political religious conflicts todayI dock a star because the plot is nonsensical in places and I think not only because I was so confused as to the eventshistory being depicted; Polly as a character is appallingly flat and clichéd sort of forgiveable as mentioned because it's 1954 and the dialogue and relationship between Stenham and Polly seems unmotivated and unrealisticBUT the last scene between Polly Stenham and Amar is breathtaking Absolutely breathtaking I can say no SO I always recommend Bowles and when my friends read him they invariably dislike him But I love love love him Proceed at your own discretionFor a much better sense of what this is about but caution some spoilers if your threshold for same is low see this NYT review from 1955; and this contemporary review