front cover


Paul Bowles
Magic & Morocco


by Allen Hibbard

cover illustration by Hermann Nitsch
ISBN 0-932274-62-5
first edition 2004
175 PAGES, 5½" x 7¼"

Signed/Limited edition in boards

Limitation: 50 numbered copies signed by both the author and illustrator

Offset printing by McNaughton & Gunn, in Saline, Michigan. Handbound in green fabric covered boards and green endpapers with Hermann Nitsch illustration affixed to front cover. Glassine wrapper. Handbinding by A 1 Bookbinding in Los Angeles, California under the supervision of Mariana Blau.

Trade edition


175 PAGES, 4¾" x 7"

Paul Bowles (1910-1999) was one of the most paradoxical literary talents of his century, a sophisticated New York writer and composer who lived a half-century in Morocco, a man who fled the western world that acclaimed him. Paul Bowles, Magic & Morocco is an extended homage, a memoir of a friendship, and an examination of more than a half-century's influence of North African magic on Bowles's sensibilities and fictions. Allen Hibbard situates Bowles with others like Conrad and Lawrence who lived a split existence, literally and metaphorically, divided between the modern and the primitive. With an extensive knowledge of the Middle East and North Africa, Hibbard weaves literary analysis and personal insight, thereby yielding a unique understanding of the effects of Moroccan culture upon Bowles's sensibility.

From the book

Those who visited Bowles in Tangier often thought of him as a sort of sorcerer, magician, or guru — someone who could ever so cleverly orchestrate the forces around him simply because he understood those forces so deeply and intuitively.

About the Book

Paul Bowles, Magic & Morocco by academician, reviewer, essayist, and translator, Allen Hibbard addresses the life and work of expatriate author Paul Bowles. An in-depth work of literary criticism that transcends boundaries to explore the occult forces that permeated Bowles' life, the Moroccan mysteries and North African customs, culture, and magic he studied, the mystical influence, drugs, sex, and music, and much more. Paul Bowles, Magic & Morocco takes a personal turn as author Hibbard dares to speak to Bowles directly, addressing him from beyond the grave.

— Small Press Bookwatch, October 2004


. . . In Paul Bowles, Magic & Morocco, Allen Hibbard has chosen an altogether new trajectory for a critical study of Paul Bowles, by way of a well-documented and thoroughly researched exegesis of Bowles' relationship with magic and Morocco, two volatile forces in the life and work of Bowles.

This engagingly written narrative covers a wide spectrum of history, anthropology, cultural studies, literary criticism and speculative non-fiction, without ever losing track of its subject. Seen as a sorcerer or shaman, tapping the endemic forces and energies (and supersititions) of a primitive culture, it's possible to see how Bowles employed a sort of alchemy in both his writing and his life, manipulating characters and events, both fictional and real. Bowles' particular alchemy was his way of bridging the dialectical chasm between the self and the other, between the primitive and the modern, allowing him to access a psychic terrain that few other writers were able to reach. Hibbard thus throws much new light on the creative process behind Bowles' writing.

Hibbard's book is a hybrid of cultural studies, literary criticism, biography and memoir, and is equally strong on all levels. Set in Elzevirs and with a striking cover featuring a lithograph by Hermann Nitsch, this is another small treasure of a book beautifully produced by Cadmus Editions. A welcome acquisition for all Bowles aesthetes, as well as for anyone with an interest in magic, the supernatural and the creative process, which might have more in common than many of us thought.

— Mark Terrill

SMALL PRESS REVIEW, September-October 2004

. . . a gem of a book.

— Dave Stevens, “Transformations”

AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW, November-December 2005

I am not acquainted with any book that proceeds the way it does with a writer. The procedure is effective and maintains interest. The whole is well written. . . The Bowles you present seems to me a shadowy figure, maybe a changeling rather than a magician. There's a sense in which he never fully appears.

— Hazard Adams, personal correspondence, December 8, 2005

. . . I then went to Tenerife for a week with my ancient mother and devoured your book by the sea, off the coast of Morocco as it happened (and in the place where Isherwood broke up his novel The Lost into the episodes we now know as The Berlin Stories). I loved your book. You have an entirely natural style, highly intelligent and informed but never pretentious or obstrusive. It is most friendly to the reader. I also like the way in which your obvious affection and regard for Paul did not prevent you from maintaining the necessary critical distance. As for the central argument, well, you certainly brought together a strong case for Paul's interest in magic, and the magic of Morocco for him, in a way I have never seen done before.

— Leslie Croxford, author of Solomon's Folly, personal correspondence, August 15, 2004

I came back from a Djerassi Foundation Residency in California to find the notice about Paul Bowles, Magic & Morocco, which I've just finished and loved. While reading I could not help thinking, as I went from one chapter to the next, that someday you should write three linked short novels, one each about Tangier, Damascus, and Cairo. Can even imagine a proposal for such a narrative series catching the eye of agents and editors. Wouldn't it be wonderful to go into a project with a publisher's prior interest and commitment? Of course, you already know the benefits after experiencing that condition twice now.

. . . I enjoyed your progression from criticism to apostrophe by way of memoir.

Ah, memories! I cherish my former times in Morocco, traveling by train to Fez and Marrakech, going at night to the mosque in Rabat when no one was about, and I am saddened to think that the world's troubles have effectively eliminated Morocco for me. It's a pity our cultures can't get along.

But you have caught and preserved a part of it for all of us. Well done, old friend! And thanks.

— Ewing Campbell, fiction writer, author of Weave It Like Nightfall, Piranesi's Dream, The Rinon Triptych, private correspondence, August 3, 2004.

The book is great. I started reading it and like the quotes and the analysis. I look forward to reading more.

— John Solt, poet & academician, in correspondence to Jeffrey Miller, June 29, 2004

I read Magic & Morocco last week: What a gem! The range of knowledge is impressive, anthropology, literature, Moroccan culture, etc., but carried off with such a light, graceful touch. Both erudite and entertaining, a feat worthy of a magician indeed. For me some of the most interesting chapters were the ones on former literary travelers in Morocco, on the anthropology of Moroccan customs, on Bowles's interesting personality (which really comes across), and your own recollections of friendship with Bowles. You've stirred my interest in his fiction, which I'm sure is one of the main things you hoped to accomplish. Great work!

— Carl Ostrowski, author of Books, Maps, and Politics: A Cultural History of the Library of Congress, 1783–1861

Artfully, beautifully, sensually written.

Hibbard's book offers a behind-the-scenes look at Paul Bowles's life and literature, and the author's Bowles-as-magician interpretation will only enhance anything you've ever read by Bowles. Hibbard periodically inserts passages from Bowles's stories and letters to emphasize his points and to show parallels between Paul's reality and fantasy worlds—ultimately showing how the magician fused those two worlds into one. By revealing to readers how Bowles's fiction thrust him into Bowles's real life, Hibbard subtly, artfully becomes a magician himself, walking the same lines between fantasy and reality throughout his friendship with Paul, remembering fictional situations as real ones take place. Although Hibbard's intent wasn't to convince as much as it was to present, I was thoroughly convinced by the end of this book that Bowles was somehow more than mortal. The author demonstrates a broad knowledge of Bowles, his fellow literary friends, his critics, and North Africa in general, yet the book never sounds as if it were written by an academic. Instead, Hibbard's voice is friendly and welcoming, and he seems eager to lead his readers into an exotic world: I was willingly grabbed by the hand and led through Tangier, into Paul's home, to the Moroccan coast to sip mint tea. Rarely is non-fiction as beautifully presented as it is in this book!

— Molly Bloom

reader review at Amazon website, September 19, 2004

A Must Buy Book.

Allen Hibbard's Paul Bowles, Magic and Morocco is a moving and unique memoir that exhibits both scholarly admiration and homage to his friend Paul Bowles. Hibbard sets the stage by creating an interesting genealogy of writers prior to Bowles (for example Washington Irving (1829), Pierre Loti (1889), and Henri Matisse (1912), just to mention a few) to demonstrate that many writers often seek exotic places to nurture their imagination, which may result in very magical and exotic narratives. The memoir shifts to an intimate look at Bowles's life, which highlights Hibbard's own personal tale of how he is attracted to the exotic allure and magic of Morocco and the Middle East. Hibbard recounts his own acquaintance and experience with Moroccan and Arabic cultures, and his meeting of the Mage of Morocco—Paul Bowles. Moving forward into the time and space after Bowles death, Hibbard talks to his friend's spirit in a letter, which is emotionally stirring and well done.

Regardless of your experience with reading Paul Bowles, I personally recommend this book. The genealogy provides an easy to read and entertaining overview of several notable writers. In addition, the book presents a very interesting sample of magic and myths in North Africa. The movement through time and space that spans from the early writers, through the life of Paul Bowles, and ends with a letter to Bowles's spirit is beautifully done. The book's narrative, like its intriguing cover, is guaranteed to cast a magical spell on whoever reads it.

— P. Hancock

reader review at Amazon website, July 13, 2004

5 Stars Only if Hibbard gets a Better Picture of Himself for the Credits.

Convoluted title to the review, convoluted subject: Paul Bowles. Mr. Hibbard is “hooked” on Bowles and suffers from some of his grandiosity, but, overall, this is an interesting read. The first few chapters annoyed me because Hibbard quotes a lot from books I've already read and, at times, the book reads like an undergraduate term paper. Still, you have to give him an “A” as he draws in many references in his analysis (Ph.D. stuff).

What I really like about his analysis is that, though Mr. Hibbard may not know good fiction (and hence bad fiction) when he sees it, he is not afraid to portray Mr. Bowles as the sadistic little twit that he, in part, was. Hibbard's hyperbolic language aside, he effectively shows how Bowles' lifelong sadistic tendencies found fertile soil in the bizarre, superstitious world of Morocco, where Bowles became his own little evil dictator of sorts. Especially cruel was his luring of the innocent Alfred Chester from New York and then playing with him like a captured mouse. (Chester actually overdosed on drugs in Israel a few years later, his fragile psychology having been “finished off” by Bowles' manipulations.) Both charming and maniacal, Bowles cast a large, creepy shadow. Mr. Hibbard peers out knowingly at us from behind it.

But, the picture of Bowles and Mr. Hibbard at the back of the book has to go. Hibbard looks like Saturday Night Live's Will Ferrell (after some really bad acid.) Bowles grins self-satisfactorily behind his Carlo Ponti sunglasses and you have to wonder, what has he done to the poor boy? Then, there is this crazy picture of some Viennese guy (the illustrator) who looks like a cross between Santa Claus and a rabbi. The only illustration in my edition is the unsettling one on the cover, which qualifies as “outsider” (insane) art. The illustrator apparently has some avant-garde theater thing going in Prinzenhof (sic?).

Oh yes, and the actual book is tiny, possibly shrunk down during one of Mr. Hibbard's Bowlesian experiments. After reading this book, I think I've had my fill of Paul Bowles. Now, I'm looking at getting the anthology of Alfred Chester's work. (It's all Michele Green's fault, you know.)

— Gustave O. Frey

reader review at Amazon website, June 24, 2006

Austria is currently building a museum to house the work of Hermann Nitsch.