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This article is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

Unwelcome Words Paul Bowles


I'm glad you replied to my letter from the blue, although sorry to see that you imagine I think of you as a captive audience merely because you're confined to your room. Or was that said simply to make me feel guilty for having remained mobile?

Of course prices began to rise here long before the international oil blackmail of the seventies. We watched them go up, always thinking: They can't go any higher. Everything's five times as expensive as it was ten years ago. Since 1956 importation has been forbidden. So instead of imported goods we had smuggled goods, which fetched whatever people were willing to pay for them. (I suppose one should remember that prices here were incredibly low in the thirties and forties, so that they could keep on rising more or less indefinitely before they were equal to those of Europe or America. Then came the oil inflation, so that they're still going up, and still lower than other countries.)

Five years or so after Independence, Christopher was talking with an old Berber somewhere in the south. In the midst of a general conversation the old man leaned toward him and said confidentially: 'Tell me. How long is this Independence going to go on?'

I remember in 1947 I sent to New York for a thousand dollars. (If you care to remember, that was enough to live on for three or four months in those days, ...

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