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The Sheltering Sky | [Paul Bowles]

The Sheltering Sky

The Sheltering Sky is a landmark of 20th-century literature, a novel of existential despair that examines the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness of the desert. Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Requiem for a Dream) gives masterful voice to this American classic.
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Publisher's Summary

The Sheltering Sky is a landmark of 20th-century literature, a novel of existential despair that examines the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness of the desert. Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Requiem for a Dream) gives masterful voice to this American classic.

This fascinating story follows three American travelers, a married couple and their friend, as they find themselves adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II. Along the walkabout, their ignorance of the dangers that surround them peels back the veneer of their lives. The author’s life as an expatriate in the North African nation of Morocco informed his rendering of the desert, which itself is a cruel, unforgiving character in the novel.

“Paul Bowles’ writing is so extraordinary, so special,” Ms. Connelly said. “The landscapes are magical, the characters are questioning so much – it’s haunting in a very beautiful way.”

The Sheltering Sky is part of Audible’s A-List Collection, featuring the world’s most celebrated actors narrating distinguished works of literature that each star helped select. For more great books performed by Hollywood’s finest, click here.


©1949 Paul Bowles (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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  •  
    Mel USA 03-15-13
    Mel USA 03-15-13 Member Since 2009
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    "A Teacup Full of Sand on the Highest Dune"

    Because this is one of the novels released in Audible's *A-List Collection*, I'll begin with the perfect match-up of this novel to narrator, Jennifer Connelly. Flaw Less. With an hypnotic voice, Miss Connelly brings the voice of author Bowles alive. If you are familiar with the ex-pat author and composer, you might even hear his attitude in Connelly's reading. I've listened only to 3 books from the A-List Collection, but all have been solid pairings of novel and narrator. Connelly was sublime.

    I was simply - seduced, from the introductory beat of exotic tribal drums. As the novel progressed, I did not like these nihilistic snoots, Kit and Port, so self-absorbed that they don't wait for night to fall--rather they wait for the *night to come to them*, but I was mesmerized by them. Tired of Paris, Rome, wishing to escape anywhere touched by the war (WWII), Kit and Port stuff their trunks and cross the Atlantic to the N. African desert. They sit on the terrace of a desert cafe where the "air has no movement", surrounded by Arabs in fezes in shades of red, they in their European clothes, "in the manner of people who had all the time in the world for everything." Kit finds a piece of rabbit fur in her rabbit soup after swallowing a spoonful, after devouring a bowl of noodles Port notices the floating bodies of weevils, they suffer illness (and worse)...I had no sympathy for these inhumane people, but I was fascinated -- to quote Bowles quoting Kafka..."From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back; that is the point that must be reached."

    Kit and Port Moresby (MOREsby surely couldn't be coincidental), are not the antagonists of this story -- it is the Sahara, and the solitude that ignores station, caste, or status . As Bowles goes on to drive these two further into the desert the story becomes bizarre, to say the least, but these mysteries should remain until you discover them for yourself. A bit similar to Hemmingway's band of ex-pats in Paris from The Sun Also Rises; and there is no escaping the obvious...this is Existentialism, very reminiscent of Camus' The Stranger. A particular passage haunts me: an Arab tells the tale of 3 sisters and their quest to have tea in the Sahara on the highest dune (Sting wrote a song about the tale "Tea in the Sahara"), it was strangely exquisite and visual.

    The aberrations, the atrocities, the perversions, are handled with a genius touch. No violence is described, even in the most brutal situations, but you know what went down and can feel the horror of the situations because of Bowles ability to communicate without spelling out the details. It was in these moments that I felt the most fascinated and connected to this haunting book. (It struck me as I began listening the second time around that Bowles has created a novel that has been intelligently streamlined, to where everything, every detail and every word, is a necessary part of a perfect whole.) I disliked it until I loved it. Sheltering Sky will not have wide appeal, I wouldn't suggest it to my book club without expecting to lose my turn at choosing, but for me personally, I'm obsessed. Recommending this book reminds me of recommending a Rothko exhibit...you either love it and appreciate the talent that can capture the subtleties of blue fading into black...or you hate it and think you're kid could do that. This novel goes on my favorite list - the short one, and I'm already listening again.

    55 of 62 people found this review helpful
  •  
    valerie Farmington Hills, MI, United States 06-04-12
    valerie Farmington Hills, MI, United States 06-04-12
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    "Wonderful reading by Connelly"
    What did you love best about The Sheltering Sky?

    Connelly's mastery of all the accents.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The period it took place in


    What about Jennifer Connelly’s performance did you like?

    Her voice was clear, accents superb and her delivery was spot on


    If you could take any character from The Sheltering Sky out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Kit because I related to that one the best


    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 01-27-15
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 01-27-15

    "... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^

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    "Sentenced by a composer's sentences"

    Paul Bowles masterpiece reminds me of some alternate, trippy, version of Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night, but instead we see the other side of the Mediterranean. Tangier and the deserts of North Africa take the place of the South of France. A different love triangle exposes different forms of loneliness, madness, love, and existential expats.

    The thing I love about Bowles is he brings a composer's mind to writing. His novel isn't propelled forward by a strong plot (although it has plot) or attractive characters (none of the characters are very attractive), but the music of his language itself pushes and pulls, tugs and compels the reader page after page. It felt very much like I was floating limp and languid in Bowles prose as his hypnotic sentences washed over me and drifted me slowly toward the inevitable end.

    Connelly captures the mood, the magic, the sadness and the tension of the book perfectly.

    Most days, I don't feel a real need to read/listen to a book twice. But I might need to make an exception for 'The Sheltering Sky'.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn New York, New York United States 06-16-12
    Lynn New York, New York United States 06-16-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Expats in the Sahara"

    This is an intriguing story of two Americans who go to north Africa for adventure and lose everything. It is well narrated and each time I resumed listening, I was retransported into the strangeness of a foreign culture.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 11-25-14
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 11-25-14 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

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    "Worth the Waiting"

    I have been awaiting some time a copy of Bertolucci's movie to arrive. In the meantime I listened over and over to the Police's "Tea in the Sahara". When the DVD arrived it was from the wrong zone. So it's taken some time to complete the circle of information that I wanted before I commenced on the review. In a way, the waiting was a fair reflection of the tedium that the book so casually describes. "Casual" is an appropriate word too, because Port and Kit (the protagonists) remind me of Fitzgerald's "careless people"; their lives are so self-absorbed, it is really quite hard to like either of them. Tunner (the third leg of the stool) is not any more redeeming.
    It took me a while to get into the novel. It wasn't until I started approaching it like a long, un-parsed poem, just listening to the words without really trying to make them mean too much that I started to get a feel for the solitude and lack of solicitude that Bowels brings to the whole landscape. On reflection now, I think it is an inspired piece of writing, but for a third of the novel, I struggled with it and with the narration.
    When I got it, then I appreciated the narration that Jennifer Connelly brought to the words. The flat, toneless delivery contrasted so starkly with the eloquence of the language; "the meaningless hegemony of the voluntary" and the title driving, "Reach out. Pierce the fine fabric of the sheltering sky and take repose". Just writing the words brings forth the images that are so beautifully captured by Bertolucci's lens and Ryuichi Sakamoto's haunting theme.
    I must say I loved this book more after I finished it than when reading it. That suggests to me that it is not for everyone. However, if you are the one for it, get yourself a copy of the film after you have finished listening. A young Malkovich and a very young Debra Winger. You won't regret the wait.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Zurich, Switzerland 06-16-12
    Michael Zurich, Switzerland 06-16-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Great existentialist novel brilliantly read"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, I do strongly recommend this novel to everyone. This is one of the best novels that I have ever read and Jennifer Connelly's reading is the single best reading of a novel that I have ever heard.

    This is the story of an American couple, Port and Kit, travelling through Morocco in the late 1940's. Although they deeply love one another, they have grown apart and traveling from one small town in the Sahara to another only brings their despair and alienation into sharper relief. The dialog has the ring of authenticity, as do the characters' inner monologues. Bowles was a great storyteller and his descriptions of the desert are mesmerizing.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Sheltering Sky?

    One of the most powerful scenes in the novel occurs in a small hospital where Port lies, suffering from typhus. Despite his own deep sense of alienation from the world, one thing is clear to him: his love for Kit. But by then, he's too weak from the disease to get the words out and tell her everything that's on his mind.


    What does Jennifer Connelly bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I read this novel years ago and I loved it, but Jennifer Connelly's reading of it has led me to appreciate it even more. I almost hesitate to call it a 'reading'. It's better described as a performance and a great one at that. Her decison to give each character in the novel his or her own distinctive voice was a bold one and it paid off. Her readings of the narrative passages are just as hypnotic and brilliant as Bowles' writing itself.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Kit's mental breakdown in the desert after she loses Port is especially moving. There's no one to help her.


    Any additional comments?

    Listening to this reading has inspired me to read Bowles' other novels and to re-watch some of Ms. Connelly's excellent acting performances in films.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 12-24-14
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 12-24-14 Member Since 2008

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

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    "Enigmatic but evocative"

    There is an undeniable power here. I can't say that I liked the characters, but they were somehow compelling. I can't say that I understand the choices the characters made, but they were somehow believable. Bowles has somehow tapped in to the mid-century malaise that followed World War II, and created a novel that is at once evocative and enigmatic. We never learn enough about Port and Kit to know why they came to Africa, or why they brought Tunner along. They are intent on following their own plans despite having no actual purpose. They are oblivious to the consequences of their choices, and seemingly oblivious to the possibility that their lives are also subject to other people's agendas. Scattered throughout are some truly stunning observations by Bowles about life. I cannot help but reflect on this novel months after hearing it; still trying to make sense of it; still admiring and confused.

    As much as I am a fan of Jennifer Connelly, I have mixed feelings about her as a reader. On the plus side, she is about the right age for Port and Kit, and thereby makes it easier to access those characters. On the other hand, she comes across as rather flat, lacking the varied modulations of the truly accomplished audio book readers.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Memphis, TN, United States 05-26-12
    Susan Memphis, TN, United States 05-26-12 Member Since 2013
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    "Compelling Story & Magnificent Performance"

    Jennifer Connelly's performance is perfect. Port, Kit and Tunner can be quite unsympathetic characters at times but the story is a compelling portrait of the disconnection a generation felt after World War II.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
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    mike franklin, tn, United States 11-19-12
    mike franklin, tn, United States 11-19-12 Member Since 2015

    Frist off my name is Cynthia. My husband is Mike, but he has never been a member.

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    "Jennifer Connelly did a wonderful job."
    Would you listen to The Sheltering Sky again? Why?

    I would listen to this story again because each character
    was so complex and they came together and a very interesting time
    and place. I did listen to part of it again just to be sure that I understood the ending.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The characters inner dialogue verses how they related to one and other.


    What about Jennifer Connelly’s performance did you like?

    Her voice was perfect for the female character. I like the way she reacted to her husband
    in the story.


    If you could take any character from The Sheltering Sky out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    The female character, she was the most interesting.


    Any additional comments?

    I liked the ending it was quite a surprise.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William M Storm MILWAUKEE, WI, United States 10-21-12
    William M Storm MILWAUKEE, WI, United States 10-21-12 Member Since 2012

    An academic who listens to novels on runs and commutes to campus.

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    "Existential Crises in the Sahara"

    I am naturally skeptical of existential novels and meditations, as the texts can sometimes devolve into a depressing mix of self-loathing and pity. While Sheltering Sky does not devolve that far, the issue is that you have a set of characters who are seemingly unaware of how their actions have consequences. Too often, I was left to wonder why these characters would be so unwilling to look at their actions in a critical fashion, which caused me not to feel any sympathy for the relatively disturbing fates handed out in this novel. The one redeeming quality of this production was the narration of Jennifer Connelly.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
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  • J
    Mtunzini, South Africa
    7/6/12
    Overall
    "excellent listening"

    A very moving story. It's hard to break listening.
    Excellent performance by Jennifer Connely.
    Her voice is perfect. Please, more of her.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Brixham, United Kingdom
    4/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "meandering tale of self-indulgence which goes sour"
    If you could sum up The Sheltering Sky in three words, what would they be?

    Journey to real wilderness reveals the wilderness within


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Probably shortened the scenes towards the end with Arabian Nights like characters


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Realisation that death reveals lack of substance to one's life


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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