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ESCAPE FROM A DESERT TOWN

06 Mar

A wonderful piece of writing, from literature. You can feel as if you are watching a movie, NAY, as if you are THERE yourself. For your taste buds……

Paul Bowles
The Sheltering Sky
pp. 180

 When she finished eating she went to the room and lighted the lamp. … A few minutes later she took up her coat and went out in to the courtyard.Then she climbed to the roof.
  The roof of the fort was a great, flat, irregularly shaped mud terrace whose varying heights were a projection, as it were, of the uneven ground below. The ramps of the staircases between the different wings were hard to see in the dark. And although there was a low wall around the outer edge, the innumerable courtyards were merely open wells to be skirted with caution. The stars gave enough light to protect her against mishaps. She breathed deeply, feeling rather as if she were on shipboard. The town below was invisible- not a light showed – but to the north dimly glimmered the white edge, the vast ocean of sand with its frozen swirling crests, its unmoving silence. She turned slowly about, scanning the horizon. The air doubly still now after the departure of the wind, was like something paralysed. Whichever way she looked, the night’s landscape suggested only one thing to her: negation of movement, suspension of continuity. But as she stood there, momentarily a part of the void she had created, little by little doubt slipped in to her mind, the sensation came to her, first faint, then sure, that some part of the landscape was moving even as she looked at it. She glanced up and grimaced. The whole, monstrous star – filled sky was turning sideways before her eyes. It looked still as death, yet it moved. Every second an invisible star edged above the earth’s line on that side, and another fell below on the opposite side. She coughed consciously, and started to walk again, trying to remember how much she disliked Captain Broussard. He had not even offered her a pack of cigarettes, in spite of overt remark. ’Oh God’, she said aloud, wishing she had not finished her last Players in Bou Noura.

  As she paced back and forth on the roof, two things happened at once. On one side the large moon swiftly rose above the edge of the plateau, and on the other, in the distant air, an almost imperceptible humming sound became audible, was lost, became audible again. She listened: now it was gone, now it was a little stronger. And so it continued for long time, disappearing, and coming back always a bit nearer. Now, even though it was still far away, the sound was quite recognizable as that of a motor. She could hear the shifts of speed as it climbed a slope and reached level ground again. Twenty kilometres down the trail, they had told her, you can hear a truck coming. She waited. Finally, when it seemed that the vehicle must already be in town, she saw a tiny portion of rock far out on the hammada being swept by the head lights as the truck made a curve in its descent towards the oasis. A moment later she saw the two points of light. Then they were lost for a while behind the rocks, but the motor grew ever louder. With the moon casting more light each  minute, and the truck bringing people to town, even if people were anonymous figures in white robes, the world moved back into the realm of the possible. Suddenly she wanted to be present at the arrival down in the market. She hurried below, tiptoed through the courtyards, managed to open the heavy gate, and began to run down the side of the hill toward the town. The truck was making a racket as it went along between the high walls of the oasis; as she came opposite the mosque it nosed above the last rise on its way up into the town. There were a few ragged men standing at the entrance of the market place. When the big vehicle roared in and stopped, the silence that followed lasted only a second before the excited voices began, all at once.

     She stood back and watched the laborious getting- down of the natives and leisurely unloading of their possessions: camel saddles that shone in the moon light, great formless bundles done up in stripped blankets, coffers and sacks, and two gigantic women so fat that they could barely walk, their bosoms, arms and legs weighted down with pounds of massive silver ornaments. And all these possessions, with their owners, presently disappeared behind the dark arcades and went out of hearing. She moved around so she could see the front end of the truck, where the chauffeur and mechanic and a few other men stood in the glare of the head lights talking.  She heard French being spoken –, bad French — as well as Arabic. The chauffeur reached in and switched of the lights; the men began to walk slowly up into the market place. No one seemed to have noticed her. She stood still a moment, listening.

 She cried: “Tunner!”

(she would escape with him presently)

(Also a film by the sae name)

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2 Comments

Posted by on March 6, 2012 in adab and literature

 

2 responses to “ESCAPE FROM A DESERT TOWN

  1. Rafiullah Mian

    March 6, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    “The Sheltering Sky” one of great stories…
    hosakta hay kisi din main bhi isay parh raha honga…….!

     
    • shakilakhtar

      March 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      zaroor parhen. I can not have enough of it. Beautiful story, beautifully witten. You learn a lot about sub sahara life also.

       

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