After 5 days of readings, exhibits, concerts, and walkabouts, Tangier's week in Homage to Paul Bowles has come to an end.
Though most of the events were attended largely by a strongly European cultural crowd, it started and ended with programs well-attended by young Moroccans.
"Every Reader Is a Translator," held at the Tangier School of Translation, had a capacity crowd of students, many of whom asked very pertinent questions of the panel of eminent translators of Paul Bowles works (Claude Nathalie Thomas into French, Nicole d'Amonville Alegria, Spanish). As panelist Umberto Pasti said, Bowles – with his knowledge of French, Spanish, and Moroccan Arabic – was the antithesis of the Orientalist. Translating his works required so much more than finding le mot juste; you had to know the back story. What was the character's mind set, what does Bowles want to infer? Claude Nathalie Thomas wrote about her work with Bowles in this intriguing essay, "A Translator's Experience."
And on closing night, Tangier's wonderful Cinémathèque featured the first public showing of a work-in-progress, Karim Debbagh's "Creating a Legend." Bowles stalwarts might flinch at this often critical look at the local legend, which is heavy on the writer's last days, and doesn't pretend to be literary. Its merit is showing the sometimes fraught relationship with the Moroccans closest to Bowles, though the viewer is left with the queasy feeling that they are capitalizing on their former connections to the great man. Again, the Cinémathèque cornered the youth market.
In between, Tangier was treated to a world-class reading of a Bowles short story in French translation ("L'education de Malika"), a concert of his Spanish songs, and TALIM's showcasing of his recordings of Moroccan traditional music for the Library of Congress. Interspersed with book signings and theater productions. Paul Bowles was prolific, and his talents many.
Seeing several documentaries on his long life in Tangier, interviews where Bowles speaks for himself, and listening to his narration of his stories and his music wafting over the Legation courtyard, I have a much better sense of this unique 20th century figure. I come out of Centenary Week with great respect for this Renaissance Man, this American in Tangier.