www.PaulBowles.org

 
 
 

 

JANE BOWLES, NOVELIST, IS DEAD;

AUTHOR OF 'TWO SERIOUS LADIES'

 
(Obituary from The New York Times, May 31, 1973)

 

Jane Auer: born in New York, N.Y., February 22, 1917

Jane Bowles: died in Málaga, Spain, May 4, 1973, age 56.

 

Tennessee Williams was in the New York office of Audrey Wood with Bill Barnes, his new literary agent, when he was shown a letter just received from Paul Bowles in Tangier informing that Jane Bowles had died on May 4, 1973 after a long illness in the Clinica de los Angeles in Málaga, Spain.  A distraught Tennessee Williams telephoned Clive Barnes at The New York Times to demand an obituary be printed because there had been no mention of his friend's death in any American newspaper. Of Jane Bowles Tennessee Williams wrote: "I am not alone in regarding Jane as the finest writer of the century in English prose-fiction."

Paul Bowles had been summoned by the hospital staff to come immediately when his wife's condition became critical, but when he arrived at her side on the evening of May 3, 1973, she was already in a coma and never regained consciousness. A private funeral service and burial were held at the chapel of the Sagrado Corazón in the San Miguel Cemetery in Málaga on May 5, 1973. (In his last will, Paul Bowles instructed that his wife's name also be engraved on his tombstone in the Lakemont, New York cemetery in upstate New York. However, Jane Bowles' remains are still buried in Málaga, Spain.)

 

        Jane Bowles, a dramatist and novelist, died in Málaga, Spain, on May 4. She was 56 years old and lived in Tangier with her husband, Paul Bowles, a composer and writer. 

        She was best known for her novel, "Two Serious Ladies," written in the late nineteen thirties, and for her play, "In the Summer House," produced in New York in 1953 with Judith Anderson in the leading role. 

        However, Mrs. Bowles was not known widely to the public. Instead, she had a vast underground reputation until 1967, when "The Collected Works of Jane Bowles" was published.  

        Writing in the New York Times Book Review, John Ashberry commented:  

        "Jane Bowles is a writer's writer's writer. Few surface literary reputations are as glamorous as the underground one she has enjoyed since her novel, 'Two Serious Ladies,' was published in 1943. The extreme rarity of the book, once it went out of print, has augmented its legend. When a London publisher wanted to reprint it three years ago [1964], even Mrs. Bowles was unable to supply him with a copy.

        ". . . Jane Bowles has at last surfaced. It is to be hoped that she will be recognized for what she is: one of the finest modern writers of fiction, in any language. At the same time it should be pointed out that she is not quite the sort of writer that her imposing list of Establishment admirers seem to suggest. Her work is unrelated to theirs, and in fact, it stands alone in contemporary literature." 

        The "collected works" included the novel, the play and seven shorter pieces. Each dealt in some way with conflict between the weak and the strong, and the outcome usually was a draw. 

        Mrs. Bowles numbered among her admirers Truman Capote, who wrote an introduction to the "collected works"; Tennessee Williams, who spoke of her novel as "my favorite book," and Alan Sillitoe, who called it "a landmark in 20th-century American literature." 

        A 1943 review of "Two Serious Ladies" written in The Times Book Review by Edith H. Walton, called it "intermittently funny and certainly original," and added, "it strains too hard to startle and to shock and it all too often is just merely silly." 

        Brooks Atkinson, then the drama critic of The Times, said: "'In the Summer House' has an awareness of the intangibles in life that rarely turns up in our hard-bitten theater. It is pure art, although there are serious shortcomings in workmanship." 

        The play, which featured Mildred Dunnock, ran for 55 performances. 

        Over the years Miss Bowles contributed to Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Mademoiselle.

        Her husband is believed to be her only survivor.

The New York Times, May 31, 1973

 

Padre José stands beside the new grave of Jane Bowles in the San Miguel Cemetery (plot: F-453) in Málaga, Spain. The site was dedicated in October 1999. (Photograph Copyright © Jon Carlson)

 

Catalogue of Jane Bowles' Literary Works

Paul Bowles' Funeral in Lakemont, New York, on November 1, 2000 (with photographs)

Paul Bowles' Obituary (from the New York Times, November 19, 1999)

Galleries of Photographs of Jane and Paul Bowles and their friends and associates

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