Tuesday Aug 26, 2003

Traveler not Tourist

Although Bowles, composer, author, and inveterate traveler, is writing about the Sahara and going native to some degree in the excerpt below, his descriptive imagery applies equally to one discovering art for himself.

From Baptism of Solitude:

“You leave the gate of the fort or the town behind, pass the camels lying outside, go up into the dunes, or out into the hard, stony plain and stand awhile, alone. Presently, you will either shiver and hurry back inside the walls, or you will go on standing there and let something very peculiar happen to you, something that everyone who lives there has undergone and which the French call ‘le bapteme de la solitude.’ It is a unique sensation and has nothing to do with loneliness, for loneliness presupposes memory.

“Here, in this wholly mineral landscape lighted by stars like flares, even memory disappears; nothing is left but your own breathing and the sound of your heart beating. A strange, and by no means pleasant, process of reintegration begins inside you, and you have the choice of fighting against it, and insisting on remaing the person you have always been, or letting it take its course. For no one who has stayed in the Sahara for awhile is quite the same as when he came.”

—Paul Bowles

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