The Reading Room

Let it Come Down

Review of Let it Come Down by Paul Bowles…

In Paul Bowles’ second novel, Let it Come Down, we see the author return to what would prove to be familiar territory in his stories of ill-prepared westerners travelling across North Africa to escape whatever it was which propelled them to make such dramatic decisions.

Macbeth Act Three, Banquo: It will be Rayne to Night 1st. Murd: Let it Come Down..

In his first novel, the classic The Sheltering Sky Bowles paints a torrid account of the heat and the effects it had on Morocco’s newcomers, in this we see a much different climate albeit in the same place. It rains, from page one onwards. Dyer, a non-descript from New York City leaves behind his non-descript life to join an old friend who has set up a travel business in Tangier. Bowles paints a vivid picture of a man with little money who needs his friend to come good if he is to prove his family and friends wrong about their suspicions.

The author takes the reader on a journey through the darker parts of a distant city, alcohol is seldom far away as are the brothels and drugs which, in so many novels of that era and type offer fleeting relief for the desperate expat. Set in the International Zone shortly before Morocco gained independence, Bowles shows the corruption and danger to be found within its walls, deliberately painting Dyer as a hollow character who consequently becomes a vehicle for the dark, seedy impulses and temptations a city’s underbelly can offer.

And Dyer throws himself into these temptations, he has no personal substance, a life unfulfilled from which lies the danger Bowles so brilliantly captures. The deeper Dyer falls so a moment of duplicity can be found at every turn. We see the worst in human desperation from Bowles, from the gin-soaked monstrosity of Eunice Goode to the spell-binding beauty of Hadija, the teenage prostitute who uses Dyer and Goode’s affections to her advantage. The pitfalls, though apparent to us are seemingly oblivious to Dyer who drives himself to disintegration in a haze of drink and cannabis. Desperate to be someone, to prove his parents wrong, his mother’s advice falls on deaf ears: ‘Once you accept the fact that life isn’t fun, you will be much happier’

The ending is typical Bowles but for me, the beauty of the book is in its first part. Descriptively bleak and sobering, Bowles warns us of the perils of seeking out false hope in situations which have none to offer, the main thrust of the book is a relatively simple message but on told in a style hard to forget.

Let it Come Down by Paul Bowles first published in 1952.

See also: The Sheltering Sky

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