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Spider's House: A Novel Paperback – October 31, 2006
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About the Author
Paul Bowles was born in 1910 and studied music with composer Aaron Copland before moving to Tangier, Morocco. A devastatingly imaginative observer of the West's encounter with the East, he is the author of four highly acclaimed novels: The Sheltering Sky, Let It Come Down, The Spider's House, and Up Above the World. In addition to being one of the most powerful postwar American novelists, Bowles was an acclaimed composer, a travel writer, a poet, a translator, and a short story writer. He died in Morocco in 1999.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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".Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Bowles writes well, and the first part with the character, Amar, is a good portrait of his culture and their distaste of the French colonists. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Barbara Kauffman
This book made me feel as if I should visit Fez eventhough Bowles was not really describing the place. Read morePublished 6 months ago by zinnia
If you’ve ever been an expat in a non-Western culture, the conversations between and the inner musings of the Western characters in The Spider’s House will ring 100% true. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Al
Insightful, interesting, gripping, fulfilling...
It is not for no reason that so far all the reviews of this book have been good. Read more
A good book to read at the time of terrorist attacks in Tunisia and Yemen. I ordered it after a recent trip to Morocco and found it incredibly relevant to the current situation in... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Queen Margo
There are very few books I do not finish: a sense of duty to the author, perhaps, or a Calvinistic upbringing. But this was one. Read morePublished 14 months ago by ReadingEnthusiast
Beatifully written. Bowles is a master when it comes to describing the cultural clash that comes from the Western world trying to fit in the Arab world. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Marco Sibaja