www.PaulBowles.org

 
 
 

 

  PAUL BOWLES: LITERARY FRIENDS, PART THREE

Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, John Hopkins, Ira Cohen

Although Paul Bowles was loathe to be considered a Beat writer and not particularly an admirer of the Beats' writings, he did inspire several of the major Beat Generation writers including Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs to go to Morocco. Writer Iain Finlayson explains this point in his 1992 book Tangier: City of the Dream: "Especially bothersome is the insistence of some literary critics, reviewers and gossips who identify him as the 'cult author of the Beat Generation', as though he gave birth to Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Gysin, Corso and the others. The latest such description had occurred in the May 1987 issue of the French magazine Actuel. He takes trouble to limit the implications. 'It's wrong,' Bowles declares. 'I was never a Beat writer. To describe me as a Beat writer is purely ignorant.'" Nor is it truly correct to lump Paul Bowles with the Beat Generation of writers; Bowles preceded them by years: he had first visited Tangier in 1931, moved there in 1947, and he lived a total of 52 years in Tangier. In comparison, Burroughs only lived in Tangier for 4 years, from late 1953 to 1958. In any case, Bowles was never a Beat writer, and none of his writings are even vaguely similar to their writings.

In late 1953, William S. Burroughs arrived in Tangier, a city he would later dubb "Interzone" in his novel Naked Lunch. Bill Burroughs saw Paul Bowles regularly during the two-year period from 1955 to 1956, but apparently not Jane. Regarding her, Burroughs wrote in one of his letters: "Yes I know Jane Bowles but she is not exactly one of my fans. Not on bad terms you understand, just don't click exactly." (See: The Letters of William S. Burroughs: Volume I: 1945–1959.) In 1957, Jack Kerouac arrived in Tangier to visit with Burroughs and help him type various manuscripts, but he stayed only one month. He was soon followed by Allen Ginsberg, who accompanied by his friend Peter Orlovsky (Ginsberg was also snubbed by Jane Bowles) and finally Alan Ansen. In June 1961, Gregory Corso, another important Beat Generation figure arrived in Tangier. Corso, along with William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, stayed at the Villa Muniria, a guesthouse with a small garden and a terrace with beach views, not far from the Boulevard Pasteur.

The painter and writer Brion Gysin first met Jane Bowles and later Paul Bowles in Paris in 1938, when they were on their honeymoon. They became reacquainted with Gysin again in Paris during the spring of 1950, and the Bowleses invited Gysin to visit them in Tangier. He arrived in Tangier in July 1950, staying for several months as a houseguest of Paul and Jane Bowles in their small house in the upper medina.

Also shown here are photographs of the writers and novelists Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, John Hopkins, and Robin Maugham, who were definitely not "Beats"; and the Beat poet, writer and photographer Ira Cohen (February 3, 1935―April 25, 2011), and his son Raphael Aladdin Cohen.

 

 

William S. Burroughs

Allen Ginsberg

 
 

Brion Gysin

(This photograph of Brian Gysin from the early 1970s, is copyright © and owned by producer Joel Rubiner. It may not be copied, used, altered or transmitted without his advance written permission.)
Brion Gysin was born on January 19, 1916, in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England. Gysin's father died when Brion was only eight months old, and his Canadian-born mother returned to Canada and settled in Edmonton, Alberta, where Brion Gysin first attended school. After Gysin's graduation at age 15 they returned to England and he continued his studies in Brighton. In 1934, Gysin moved to Paris to study La Civilisation Française, an open course given at the Sorbonne where he made literary and artistic contacts. Gysin became a painter and writer who first met Jane Bowles and later Paul Bowles in 1938 in Paris, where the Bowleses had spent some time during their lengthy honeymoon travels. Jane and Paul Bowles encountered Gysin again in Paris in the spring of 1950, when Paul Bowles invited Gysin to visit them in Morocco.

In July 1950, Brion Gysin arrived in Tangier, staying as a houseguest for several months in Jane and Paul Bowles' tiny house near Place Amrah in the upper medina. Paul Bowles introduced Brion Gysin to Mohamed Hamri in 1950, when the 18-year-old had been travelling back and forth on the train from Ksar-el-Kebir to Tangier. Hamri was then making drawings but wanted to learn to paint. Gysin decided to encourage Hamri's painting, and he bought Hamri his first oil paints and taught him painting techniques. Hamri and Gysin immediately became inseparable friends and shared a room on the second floor at Jane and Paul Bowles' tiny house in the upper Medina. While Bowles was away on a trip Hamri took some of Bowles' personal belongings, including the suit he wore at his wedding to Jane, all of which ended up in a Tangier flea market. The last straw for Bowles occurred when Hamri "borrowed" an expensive new radio. This caused a rift between Bowles and Gysin and they did not speak with each other for several months. Finally, when Bowles' chauffeur Mohammed Temsamany and the artist Ahmed Yacoubi confronted Hamri directly, Gysin abruptly moved to a cottage on the Marshan. Within a few months, Gysin and Bowles had a reconciliation and they remained friends for many years thereafter. Writer Michelle Green wrote a book on Tangier which describes this period in some detail. In 1950, Gysin suggested to Bowles that he could easily afford to buy a car after the great success of his first novel The Sheltering Sky, and Bowles took his advice and bought a black Jaguar convertible and hired a chauffeur, Mohammed Temsamany, who was given a suitable uniform. Soon afterwards, in the winter of 1951, Bowles, Gysin and Temsamany set off on a lengthy trip to the far south of Morocco and the Sahara.

In the summer of 1950, Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles made a memorable trip to a moussem (festival) that was held on the Atlantic coast at Sidi Kacem, several miles south of Tangier. It was in Sidi Kacem with Paul Bowles, not in the village of Jajouka, where Brion Gysin first heard the music which fascinated him. In a collection of Gysin's writings, Back in No Time: The Brion Gysin Reader, edited by Jason Weiss (Wesleyan University Press, 2002), Gysin declared: "I turned to Paul Bowles who had taken me there and said: 'I want to hear that music every day of my life!'" Soon thereafter, Gysin learned from his friend Mohamed Hamri, who soon became Gysin's artistic protégé, that these musicians were from a small mountain village called Jajouka. Gysin eagerly went to Jajouka with Hamri to hear this music. Hamri's mother was born in Jajouka, but she later moved to nearby Ksar-el-Kebir. Hamri was born in Ksar-el-Kebir (according to his obituary in The Independent newspaper published on October 19, 2000), but as a child he spent much time visiting relatives in Jajouka, and later in life he divided his time between an apartment in Tangier and a house in Jajouka.

In Gysin's book The Process (New York: Doubleday, 1969), Hamri was made into a real-life character named Hamid. With the help and translation from Maghribi Arabic or darija into English by his American-born wife Blanca Nyland, Hamri's stories were initially published as a limited-edition of 50 copies and entitled Tales of Joujouka, edited by Édouard Roditi (Santa Barbara, California: Capra Press, 1975; reprinted later in Tangier: Black Eagle Press, 2003). This book contains eight stories about the legends, folkore, Sufi origins, myths and rituals of the Ahl Srif tribe in the foothills of the southern Rif Mountains near Ksar-el-Kebir, Morocco, whose Master Musicians fascinated and even obsessed Gysin.

Although Gysin at first spelled the name of the village as "Joujouka", which is how his friend Mohamed Hamri had pronounced it, Gysin consistently used in his later writings, references, correspondence and letters the spelling of Jajouka for both the Master Musicians and the village itself. Likewise, although William S. Burroughs had used and published articles about the Master Musicians of Joujouka, he later used the spelling of Jajouka. Perhaps this confusion in spelling first began because Hamri pronounced the village as Jou-jou-ka, but the most commonly used spelling in English now seems to be Jajouka. Hamri eventually became an accomplished and prolific Moroccan artist (his personal calling card proclaimed "Hamri, The Painter of Morocco"). During his lifetime numerous exhibitions of his paintings were held in Morocco and in other countries. Mohamed Hamri died in Jajouka on August 29, 2000, at the age of sixty-eight.

In December 1954, Brion Gysin opened a new restaurant in Tangier named 1001 Nights, located in a narrow wing of the Menebhi Palace. The 1001 Nights was a restaurant, not a café, and it was not located in the Kasbah but rather on the Marshan, as at least one travel guide book and several travel articles on Tangier have inaccurately placed it. News spread quickly throughout Tangier about this restaurant, and it soon became fashionable and attracted well-heeled Europeans and Americans resident in Tangier, and tourists. Customers included Cecil Beaton, Barbara Hutton, William Burroughs, Christopher Isherwood (when he visited Tangier in November 1955), and Jane and Paul Bowles. Gysin's friend Hamri was the cook, and Gysin hired the Master Musicians of Jajouka, who performed regularly, and dancing boys also provided entertainment. Hamri proved to be such an excellent cook that Gysin wrote "Hamri's Hands" as a preface for an intended cookbook of Hamri's recipes, but the book was never published. After Moroccan Independence in 1956, business at the restaurant dropped off dramatically. When two rich Americans named John and Mary Cooke, originally from Hawaii, arrived in Tangier, they became the major financial backers of the restaurant. Later, Gysin visited the Cookes when they moved on to Algeria. It is said that Gysin cried when Mary Cooke abruptly fired him from his job at the restaurant, and 1001 Nights closed permanently in January 1958―never again to reopen. Gysin's dream in Tangier had come to an end, and soon thereafter he left Morocco and travelled first to London and shortly thereafter he settled in Paris.

In the spring of 1958, Gysin moved into a cheap, unnamed, 42-room hotel in Paris, at 9, rue Git-le Coeur on the Left Bank or Latin Quarter. The hotel had been frequented by writers and artists and later was referred to as the "Beat Hotel". The rooms were dimly lit and without telephones or carpets, and Gysin lived there for several years. Gysin continued his painting while living in Paris. He introduced Burroughs to the cut-up method of writing, and Gysin and Burroughs collaborated on the technique for four years. Gysin also worked with Gregory Corso. In 1961, Gysin and mathematician Ian Sommerville co-invented and constructed the first "Dreamachine".

In the 1980s Gysin developed both emphysema and lung cancer, and while suffering, he died from a heart attack in Paris on July, 13, 1986, at the age of 70. Gysin's body was cremated in Paris on July 22, and during a post-cremation memorial given by Matilda, Duchess of Argyll, music of the Master Musicians of Jajouka was played (see: Nothing Is True, Everything is Permitted: The Life of Brion Gysin by John Geiger; New York, The Disinformation Company, Ltd., 2005, page 317). The urn containing Gysin's ashes was brought to Morocco by François de Palaminy, and on Gysin's birthday, January 19, 1987, de Palaminy, Paul Bowles, Felicity Mason (Anne Cumming), Salah, Hamri, Joe McPhillips, Mohamed Choukri, Udo Breger, Marguerite McBey and other friends gathered on a cliff near the Caves of Hercules outside Tangier. When they each took a portion of the ashes to scatter into the Atlantic, sudden gusts of winds blew Gysin's ashes back into their faces.

 

 

 

Paul Bowles, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Michael Portman at the Villa Muniria, Tangier, July 1961 (photograph copyright © by the Allen Ginsberg Trust and used with permission)

 

 

Jane Bowles, Joseph A. McPhillips III, William Burroughs, Unidentified, Paul Bowles: Tangier, 1963.

 

 

(Left to right) The mathematician Ian Sommerville (who worked with Brion Gysin on the Dreamachine in the 1960s), writers William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Bowles (holding the camera), and Gregory Corso at the villa El Muniria, Tangier, July 1961 (Photograph Copyright © by the Allen Ginsberg Trust and used with permission)
 

 

Paul Bowles at breakfast (cornflakes and tea) in Christopher Wanklyn's house in Marrakech, July 1961. (Photograph by Allen Ginsberg; Copyright © by the Allen Ginsberg Trust and used with permission)


 

 

Gore Vidal

October 3, 1925―July 31, 2012

 

Novelist, essayist and playwright Gore Vidal was an occasional visitor to Paul Bowles in Tangier. Vidal's introduction to a 1979 reissue of Bowles's collected stories sparked a revival of interest in his writings. Vidal wrote about Bowles: "His short stories are among the best ever written by an American.... As a short story writer, he has had few equals in the second half of the twentieth century."

 

 

Truman Capote

September 30, 1924―August 25, 1984

 

The American writer and novelist Truman Capote with Jane Bowles at El Farhar, a small hotel on the Old Mountain that was run by Ellen and Winthrop Buckingham. Sidi Masmoudi, Tangier, 1949. Among Capote's best-known works is In Cold Blood.

In 1978 Capote wrote an introduction to Jane Bowles's My Sister's Hand In Mine.

 

 

 

John Hopkins

John Hopkins was educated at Hotchkiss and in 1960 he graduated from Princeton. Afterwards, Hopkins began to travel, first throughout South America, then to Europe and eventually to Africa and Morocco. After arriving in Tangier in 1962, Hopkins taught for one year at The American School of Tangier. In Morocco his friends included Paul and Jane Bowles, Joe McPhillips, Marguerite McBey, David Herbert, Tessa Codrington, Claude Nathalie Thomas, Tennessee Williams, William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Alfred Chester, Mohammed Mrabet and others. During his 17 years in Morocco, Hopkins became a writer and travelled extensively throughout the country. Soon after his 1979 marriage to Ellen Ann Ragsdale, Hopkins and his wife moved to England and settled in Oxfordshire.

In addition to The Tangier Diaries: 1962-1979 (1998) and The South American Diaries, 1972-1973 (2008), John Hopkins is the author of five novels: The Attempt (1967), Tangier Buzzless Flies (1972), The Flight of the Pelican (1984), In the Chinese Mountains: A Novel of Peru (1990) and All I Wanted Was Company (1999).

 

 

 

Paul Bowles and John Hopkins at Sidi Kacem, near Tangier, in 1972. (Photograph Copyright © by Abdelouhaid Boulaich)

 

 

Ellen Ann Ragsdale with Paul Bowles, her parents, and Malcolm Forbes, the billionaire publisher of Forbes magazine, who owned Palais Mendoub on the Marshan. Forbes spent about $2.5 million on his 70th birthday celebration in August 1989, attended by over 800 celebrity guests and held at his palace in Tangier. Forbes sat at the dinner table of honor with his friend, the actress Elizabeth Taylor, Dr. Henry Kissinger and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Sidi Mohammed, now His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and Paul Bowles sat at a nearby dinner table. This photograph was taken in June 1979, at the time of Ellen Ann Ragsdale's wedding to writer and novelist John Hopkins at Tangier's Saint Andrew's Church.

 

 

 

Ira Cohen

February 3, 1935―April 25, 2011

 
 

Beat poet and photographer Ira Cohen in New York in 1996. (Copyright © by PaulBowles.org)

In 1961, Ira Cohen travelled on a Yugoslavian freighter to Tangier, where he lived four years until 1965. Cohen produced and published one single issue of  Gnawa, a magazine that introduced several works of Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs and Harold Norse. In Morocco, Cohen also produced Jilala, an LP album of trance music performed by a sect of dervishes and that was recorded by Paul Bowles. In 1986, Ira Cohen returned to Tangier, and he visited the city again in 1990.

In this early-1960s picture, Paul Bowles and Ira Cohen sit outside at the Café Central in the Socco Chico in the medina of Tangier.

(Photograph Copyright © by Ira Cohen and used with his kind permission)

 

 

Ira Cohen reading one of his poems during a dinner at La Grenouille restaurant in Tangier in 1990, with son Raphael Aladdin Cohen. (Photograph Copyright © 1990 by Phillip Ramey)

 

 

 

Robin Maugham

Robin Maugham was a nephew of the famous British author W. Somerset Maugham and a part-time resident of Tangier. Robin Maugham wrote numerous short stories, novels, non-fiction, plays and screenplays. Among his earlier writings are The Servant (1948) and Behind the Mirror (1955).

 

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