Paul Bowles letters to Cherie Nutting
Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267
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The American composer and author Paul Frederick Bowles was born in New York City on December 30, 1910. Bowles was published at age seventeen, abandoned college, and in 1929 began his life of travels with a trip to Paris, where he hoped to establish himself as a poet. Back in New York in 1930, he studied composition with Aaron Copland, whom he also accompanied to Yaddo, Paris, Berlin, and Tangier. With the support of Copland and Virgil Thomson, Bowles found work in New York writing incidental music and scores for ballet and theater. His successful career as a composer took off during the Depression with work for the Federal Theater Project (including music for Orson Welles'sHorse Eats Hat) and the Federal Music Project. Bowles became one of the preeminent composers of American theater music, producing works for William Saroyan, Tennessee Williams, and others. In the 1990s, a resurgence of interest in Bowles's music spawned a number of major concerts and performances in the United States and Europe. In addition, a new generation of musicians has released several well received recordings of Bowles's compositions.
In 1938, Paul Bowles married the aspiring writer Jane Auer, who quickly achieved critical acclaim for her first novel,Two Serious Ladies (1943). Inspired by Jane Bowles's success and her dedication to writing, Bowles began his own career as an author, eventually surpassing his already successful reputation as a composer. Beginning in the 1940s, he produced numerous works of fiction, essays, travel writing, poems, autobiographical pieces, and other works. Among Bowles's best known fictional works are the novels The Sheltering Sky (1949), Let It Come Down (1952), The Spider's House (1955), and an early short story collection, The Delicate Prey and Other Stories (1950). A 1989 reprint of The Sheltering Sky and Bernardo Bertolucci's 1990 film version of the novel, starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich, revived international interest in Bowles, the writer.
Bowles is equally known as a prolific translator. He bestowed the title "No Exit" upon Jean-Paul Sartre'sHuis Clos and his 1946 translation of that play remains the standard version for English language productions. During the 1940s, Bowles translated the poems and stories of a wide variety of European and Latin American authors. Bowles taped and transcribed from the Moghrebi tales by Mohammed Mrabet and several other Moroccan story tellers; and his translations have broadened readership of Guatemalan author Rodrigo Rey Rosa. Bowles refers to both Mrabet and Rey Rosa in these letters. Bowles translated several works related to North African culture and geography, and generously introduced and prefaced photographic collections, travel writing, and stories by other authors who share those interests.
Paul and Jane Bowles spent much of their married life traveling throughout the world and in 1947 made Tangier, Morocco, their permanent home. During this time, Paul Bowles was the so-called “dean of American expatriate writers,” and many major figures in the world of letters and the arts frequently visited the Bowleses in Tangier. Jane Bowles died in 1973, and Paul Bowles continued to reside in Tangier until his death on November 18, 1999.
Miller, Jeffrey.Paul Bowles: A Descriptive Bibliography. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 1986.Sawyer-Lauçanno, Christopher.An Invisible Spectator: A Biography of Paul Bowles. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989.Davis, Stephen. “Mercury at 80.” The Boston Globe Magazine, March 4, 1990.Nutting, Cherie, with Paul Bowles. Yesterday’s Perfume: An Intimate Memoir of Paul Bowles. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2000.Information derived from the collection.
Cherie Nutting is a photographer and musical artist manager known, among other activities, for her photographs of expatriate author and composer Paul Bowles. Born in Wellesley, Massachusetts, on April 24, 1949, Nutting studied photography at the New England School of Photography and the New York School of Visual Arts. She first traveled to Morocco with her mother in 1960, and met her first husband in Marrkech when she returned ten years later.
In February 1989, Nutting married the Moroccan musician Bachir Attar and became manager of his group, the Master Musicians of Jajouka Featuring Bachir Attar, an ensemble of Sufi trance musicians from northern Morocco. Nutting also helped to arrange logistics for the June 1989 recording sessions of the Master Musicians of Jajouka and the Rolling Stones for the song "Continental Drift" on the band'sSteel Wheels album. She continues to manage the Master Musicians of Jajouka. Nutting was a music coordinator for Bernardo Bertolucci’s film adaptation of Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky (1990) and David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of the William S. Burroughs novel Naked Lunch (1991).
Nutting became an admirer of Paul Bowles after reading his bookThe Sheltering Sky and began a correspondence with the author in 1985. After writing Bowles about her interest in Morocco and his work, she began photographing him in Tangier at his invitation in 1986. Nutting remained close friends with Bowles until his death in 1999. Just before his death, Bowles and Nutting collaborated on the book Yesterday’s Perfume: An Intimate Memoir of Paul Bowles (2000). The book is an impressionistic collage, including many of Nutting’s photographs and reminiscences of her close friendship with Bowles, as well as some of Bowles’ journal entries, new essays, and previously unpublished writings.
Nutting, Cherie, with Paul Bowles. Yesterday’s Perfume: An Intimate Memoir of Paul Bowles. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2000.Blues GR website, “Photographer, manager and producer Cherie Nutting talks about Paul Bowles, and Master Musicians of Jajouka” (accessed November 10, 2017) http://blues.gr/profiles/blogs/photographer-manager-and-producer-cherie-nutting-talks-about-pa-1Paul Bowles website, “Photographs of Paul Bowles by Cherie Nutting, Part One” (accessed November 10, 2017) http://www.paulbowles.org/photographsnutting.html Information derived from the collection.
This collection consists of eighty-three letters written by American expatriate writer and composer Paul Bowles to American photographer Cherie Nutting between October 1985 and March 1999.
In the first letter in this collection, dated October 25, 1985, Bowles encouraged Nutting to return to Morocco and visit him in Tangier, which she did in the spring of 1986. Bowles’ subsequent letters show the development of a close friendship with Nutting, who visited him in Morocco many times and collaborated with him on the bookYesterday’s Perfume: An Intimate Memoir of Paul Bowles before this death in 1999.
In many of the letters, Bowles discussed mutual friends and acquaintances, including Guatemalan author Rodrigo Rey Rosa and Moroccan storyteller and artist Mohammed Mrabet. Bowles wrote that Rey Rosa divided his time between New York, Guatemala, and Morocco, assisting him with meals and other chores when Bowles was unwell. Bowles noted that Mrabet also helped take care of him while he was recovering from surgery. Bowles wrote to Nutting often about Mrabet’s art shows in the United States and proposed that Nutting act as Mrabet’s agent.
Bowles frequently had a full house, entertaining friends, admirers, and journalists in his Tangier apartment. In his letters to Nutting, he described work on translations of his books and participation in television and radio programs, and often expressed his frustration with the endless parade of interviewers, biographers, and film crews that came to his home. In a letter dated June 10, 1987, he observed that “people simply come and take it for granted that after seeing me for a few days they can go away and write a book.” Bowles traveled to Paris for the filming and premiere of Bernardo Bertolucci’s film adaption of his bookThe Sheltering Sky. While there, Bowles took the opportunity to visit various medical specialists who could treat his sciatica and other health issues.
Nutting married Moroccan musician Bachir Attar in 1989 and began managing his band, the Master Musicians of Jajouka. Attar joined Nutting in New York in 1988, and Bowles began sending his love to them both in his letters. Several letters refer to performances by the Master Musicians of Jajouka, including their 1989 collaboration with the Rolling Stones. A schism erupted between the Master Musicians and a similarly-named musical ensemble from the same Moroccan village in the early 1990s. In a 1992 letter to William S. Burroughs, Bowles described the other ensemble masquerading as the Master Musicians of Jajouka in Dublin, Ireland, and asked Burroughs to intervene.
Bowles occasionally wrote about political events in Morocco, including terrorist threats to bomb public places in 1986, frustrations with the American role in the Iraq War in 1990, and water restrictions due to drought in 1992. On November 13, 1992, Bowles wrote that “there are also new blue laws, due to the presence of an envoy from the King. All bars are shut at eleven, including the Minzah, all restaurants at one, and discothéques at three. All shops that had sold beer and wine are boarded up and their owners in prison.” Bowles often noted the problem with getting items through the mail, although he asked Nutting to send him sodium-free salt, Jell-O, and a pump for his Ford Mustang.
Bowles was frequently in poor health during his correspondence with Nutting, suffering from frequent bouts of sciatica and other illnesses that kept him confined to his bed. Many of the handwritten letters in this collection were composed when Bowles was too ill to sit up at his typewriter. On October 20, 1986, Bowles noted that “exactly a month ago today Dr. Ben Yalia sawed me in half!” Bowles also had a cancerous growth removed from his nose while in Paris in 1994.
The last few letters from Bowles concerned Nutting’s publication of their collaborative work,Yesterday’s Perfume. Bowles congratulated Nutting on the manuscript’s acceptance by Random House, apologizing in a letter from March 26, 1999, that he “didn’t get to send you more material before my eyesight made it impossible.” In the same letter, Bowles noted that “Francis Poole and a friend of his have been here for the past two weeks collecting material for the Bowles Collection at the Library of the University of Delaware.”
Most of the letters in this collection are typewritten with autograph signatures, but there are also a number of handwritten letters and postcards. Although the majority of letters are in English, there are several postcards, letter passages, and letter greetings and closings in Spanish.
Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS mss (3 in)
Purchase, May 2017
Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, November 2017.
- University of Delaware Library Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
- Finding Aid Date
- 2017 November 14
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