The Reading From Julie’s Gathering



Here is the excerpt of Paul Bowles from a travel piece out of Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue


Immediately when you arrive in the Sahara, for the first or the tenth time, you notice the stillness. An incredible absolute silence prevails outside the towns and within. Even in busy places like the markets, there is a hushed quality in the air. As if the quiet were a conscious force, which resenting the intrusion of sound, minimises and disperses sound straight away. Then there is the sky, compared to which all other skies seem faint hearted efforts. Solid and luminous, it is always the focal point of the landscape. At sunset the precise curved shadow of the earth rises into it swiftly from the horizon, cutting it into light sect and dark section. When all daylight is gone and the space is thick with stars, it is still of an intense and burning blue. Darkest directly overhead and paling toward the earth, so that the night never really grows dark.

You leave the gate of the fort or the town behind, past the camels lying outside, go up into the dunes, or out on 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 until something very peculiar happens 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 remaining the person you have always been, or letting it take its course. For no one who has stayed in the Sahara for a while is quite the same as when he came.

Perhaps the logical question to ask at this point is ‘why go?’ The answer is that when a man has been there and undergone the bapteme de la solitude, he can’t help himself. Once he has been under the spell of the vast luminous silent country, no other place is quite strong enough for him. No other surroundings can provide the supremely satisfying sensation of existing in the midst of something that is absolute. He will go back, whatever the cost in comfort in money for the absolute has no price.”

Paul Bowles from Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue

You can also view a reading and accompanying video artist interpretation of the excerpt at youtube.com

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