Tangier 1949: Gore Vidal Ambushes Truman Capote

Headline: "Gore Vidal dies; imperious gadfly and prolific, graceful writer was 86"

Washington Post, Michael Dirda, August 1, 2012

TALIM Tanger et autres Marocs jpegDirda's article mentions in passing that Gore Vidal was a friend of Paul Bowles, whose short stories Vidal said "are among the best ever written by an American."  Vidal was an occasional visitor to Tangier.

Thanks to Daniel Rondeau, French man of letters and current ambassador to UNESCO, we have a glimpse of Gore Vidal as a young man, when in 1949, Jane Bowles accompanies Truman Capote through France en route to Tangier.  This is an informal translation from Tanger et autres Marocs, Rondeau's 1997 ode to a city and its cultural fixtures:

It's 1949, and Capote is 25 and has just published, to great acclaim, his first novel.  Paris adulates him, and he's asked: "Sir, what are you planning now?"  He pretends to have only one thing in mind, and smilingly answers his admirers: "Spend the summer in Tangier."

Capote's best enemy, Gore Vidal, gets wind of these plans.  Vidal is the same age as Capote.  He has published, to critical acclaim, his first two novels.  They travel in the same circles.  They hate each other.

Vidal, as nasty as he's smart, if that's possible, departs secretly for Tangier.  A few days later, he's hanging out on the docks, hands in his pockets, looking nonchalant, almost innocent, when Truman Capote gets off the ship from Marseille.

Bowles, who was waiting for him, told me: "Truman Capote fell apart when he spotted Gore Vidal.  His face looked like a soufflé that had suddenly been put in the freezer.  He even broke down for a few seconds and went behind the bulwark to regain his composure."

Gore Vidal drags out the practical joke for a few more days, leaving Capote with the impression that he too was in Tangier until September.  Less than a week later, he departs, satisfied to have ruined the arrival of his Enemy Number One.

The Vidal-Capote hatred continued throughout their lives, and even when Truman Capote passed away, Vidal could not resist twisting the knife.

Gerald Loftus

1 thought on “Tangier 1949: Gore Vidal Ambushes Truman Capote”

  1. “His face looked like a soufflé that had suddenly been put in the freezer”!!
    Fabulous quote, thank you.

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