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Spider's House: A Novel Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061137030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061137037
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 3.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Paul Bowles was born in Queens, New York, in 1910. He began his travels as a teenager, setting off for Paris, telling no one of his plans. In 1930 he visited Morocco for the first time, with Aaron Copland, with whom he was studying music. His early reputation was as a composer and he wrote the scores for several Tennessee Williams plays. Bowles married the writer Jane Auer in 1938, and after the war the couple settled in Tangier. In Morocco Bowles turned principally to fiction. The Sheltering Sky—inspired by his travels in the Sahara—was a New York Times bestseller in 1950, and has gone on to sell more than 250,000 copies. It was followed by three further novels, numerous short stories, nonfiction, and translations. Bowles died in Tangier in 1999.


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Customer Reviews

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His writing style is literally beyond words.
Sandra A. Unger
"The likeness of those who choose other patrons than Allah is as the likeness of the spider when she taketh unto herself a house, and lo!
Mr. Cairene
Bowles sets the story in Fes, Morocco during the struggle for independence from France.
Jonathan Biddle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Anne on May 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
It may be an anachronism, but Paul Bowles' THE SPIDER'S HOUSE can best be characterized as a "post-political" novel par excellence. Nearly 50 years after its publication, it is nothing short of prophetic in both tone and content. The meaning of the book unfolds ironically from the epigraph, taken from the Q'uran: "The likeness of those who choose other patrons than Allah is as the likeness of the spider when she taketh unto herself a house, and lo! the frailest of all houses is the spider's house, if they but knew."
The novel portrays the last days of French rule in Morocco through the eyes of an American expat writer on the one hand and an illiterate Arab boy on the other. Stenham, the American, is in love with the past -- alive all around him, he believes, in the "medieval" streets of 20th century Fez. The Moroccans, or the "Moslems" as Stenham refers to them (with purpose), both attract and exasperate him with their fatalism (Mektoub, "it is written") and dogmatic faith in their God and their traditions. Stenham can affirm none of these things intellectually yet he envies the Moslems, if only because he yearns for such psychological comfort himself. In his unbelief ("It did not really matter whether they worshipped Allah or carburetors -- they were lost in any case"), Stenham also finds their medieval path superior because its aesthetic qualities appeal to him. The ugliness of the modern world, in both its Western and Soviet guises, pains him. Contemplating the factories and housing projects of the French colony, Stenham observes that the capitalist landscape looks no different from the communist one: "After all, he reflected, Communisim was merely a more virulent form of the same disease that was everywhere in the world.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Cairene on June 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
"The likeness of those who choose other patrons than Allah is as the likeness of the spider when she taketh unto herself a house, and lo! The frailest of all houses is the spider's house, if they but knew."
The Quran
Fragility. That is the defining quality of Paul Bowle's vivid illustration of Fez circa 1954. Or rather, the reverie of an unadorned, exotic place that vaguely resembles Fez. For the characters, the reality of the medieval city plagues that reverie. The Fez of the novel is at war. With the French occupiers, and the Istiqlal (independence) fighters upping the stakes, raising the level of brutality. In Bowles's explicitly detailed streets, alleyways, cafes, there are conspiring students and those who inform on them. Arrogant French soldiers and disdainful natives. Faithless Berber collaborators and angry Moroccan mobs. But Fez, fragile and frail its condition maybe, is not the subject of this book. It is the reverie of two relatively apolitical onlookers. The likeness of that reverie is that of a spider's house.
At the Merinides Palace resides John Stenham, an American writer who has been in Fez for several years at the time of his introduction. His mordant wit and ill-temper are that of man of shattered ideals. He is the type of pseudo-cynic, the reader senses, was once a romantic. His neighbor, and frequent companion, is Moss, an English businessman, who, like the American, is in Fez for ambiguous reasons. Their daily routine consists of silly little mind games, where Moss pretends to be a chaste of the orient, with Stenham as his acquainted guide. But Moss, we learn, is sly old bat. He is a millionaire, a true cynic whose cynicism has served him well. The writer's case is much graver than that.
Stenham is an ex-communist, with a fuzzy desire "to be saved".
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By P. El-Dana on November 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Reading "The Spider's House" was a bittersweet experience for me. Because I have already read his other novels and since his passing last November, I knew this would be it. There would be little more than rereading the passages I have bookmarked and concentrating on his short stories. I truly love Bowles' style of writing and this novel IS far better than the others. Yes, I loved "The Sheltering Sky" as most others do, but that was merely from the P.O.V. of outsiders, 'travelers' if you will. "The Spider's House" also shares that P.O.V., but it also provides that of a young Moslem boy and an expatriot who has lived in the region for many years. Their perceptions of one another are approached in such a way that the reader understands their motives/actions, though the characters do not necessarily understand one another. Politics and religion play a large part in facilitating those perceptions and makes for an exciting read.
I highly recommend this novel for anyone who: - liked the other works of Bowles and/or - enjoys stories involving religion/politics/exotic places/romance (Those fond of the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez will especially like this one)
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on March 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Whats fascinating about Paul Bowles is that he uprooted himself from his own culture and immersed himself completely in a culture as different from his own as he could find. And the reason for this is clear in all of his fiction and travel books-- he enjoys feeling like a stranger. For Bowles this immersion into another culture was a great success. However whatever it was that Bowles himself found in Arab culture seems to elude the characters in his fictions who seem to be seeking a similar kind of immersion but somehow never get it right. In fact more often than not Bowles characters usually find out the hardest way possible that they simply are unsuited to the life they are attempting to lead.
In Spiders House there are two lead characters Aman , a young Arab, and Stenham, an American writer. The first 150 pages of the book are devoted to Aman who is coming of age and awareness of the world around him just as that world is about to change as this is 1954 and French rule in Morocco is about to be challenged by a fierce Nationalist uprising. Aman's family is deeply rooted in their cultures traditions but Aman is not. Aman is responsive to the changing world around him and his own philosophy is provisional and unbound by adherence to any faith. We witness the stirrings of political revolt through his eyes and he is fascinated with all he sees but he does not interpret events nor involve himself in them for he is a kind of stranger within his own culture who believes himself to have the ability to read what is in other mens hearts. Aman remains on the fringes of his own culture, almost an outsider looking in. His perspective is fascinating and gives us a unique look at Arab life from an insider/outsider perspective.
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