The Oblivion Seekers. Isabelle Eberhardt, Paul Bowles.
The Oblivion Seekers
The Oblivion Seekers
The Oblivion Seekers

The Oblivion Seekers

ISBN: 00872860825
San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, 1975. First Printing. Softcover. (Cook 112, pg. 120). “If Alexander Trophimowsky had not taken charge of his illegitimate daughter’s education and upbringing, no one would have ever heard of Isabelle Eberhardt. By obliging her to perform hard physical labor outdoors alongside her brothers during her childhood and adolescence, he made it possible for her to withstand the rigors of the spartan life she was to live later on. By insisting that she appear regularly, dressed in men’s clothing, not only at home but in public, he assured her the subsequent ease she felt in wearing male disguise, a device which was to prove a sine qua non in the Sahara. Had he not bought her a horse and taught her to ride it properly while she was still a child, she would have had no mobility in the desert. He saw to it that she grew up a polyglot, even teaching her to read and write Classical Arabic when she asked for it. Trophimowsky had been a friend of Mikhail Bukunin (an intellectual rival to Karl Marx who predicted Marxism’s catastrophic failures) and was full of untried theories about education; he allowed his daughter to have no contact with the Swiss among whom they lived. / … / Her life seems haphazard, at the mercy of caprice, but her writings prove otherwise. She did not make decisions; she was impelled to take action. Her nature combined an extraordinary singleness of purpose and an equally powerful nostalgia for the unattainable. Over the years the goal imperceptibly changed from the idea of simple escape to the obsession of total freedom…” So writes legendary literary expatriate Paul Bowles (1910-1999) in his information-laden, 11-page capsule biography of Isabelle Wilhelmine Marie Eberhardt (1877-1904). As a teenager, Eberhardt published short stories under a male pseudonym, and she later wrote for a newspaper published by one Victor Barrucand, who began publishing her remaining manuscripts in 1906 to critical acclaim. Paul Bowles’ interest in Eberhardt was piqued in 1954, when “…author and explorer Cecily Mackworth published the biography ‘The Destiny of Isabelle Eberhardt’ after following Eberhardt’s routes in Algeria and the Sahara.” After Bowles encountered Mackworth’s book, he began the process of translating from Eberhardt’s extant publications, culminating in the work presently offered here. Eberhardt is almost like a distant cousin to Rimbaud—both shared a ‘contempt for the bourgeoisie’ and the prim-&-proper values with which they were associated, a taste for kif (and related intoxicants) and a stubborn commitment to self-styled “freedom” (despite whatever incursions upon their health and security that commitment might bring). Both died young—Eberhardt at that most notorious of death-years, 27, and Rimbaud at 37—after prolonged African sojourns. Trade softcover, the first printing; published in September 1975 at Braun-Brumfield printers here in Ann Arbor. Despite the fact that this title was released in in a print run of 3000 copies, first printings are now strikingly scarce. This particular copy is from the collection of Erin Black Matson, the artist & poet who along with her then-husband, the acclaimed poet-educator Clive Matson, was a member of the Beat Generation-morphing into the hippie counterculture in NYC during the 1960s. The Matsons were friends & protégé-collaborators in a circle that included Herbert Huncke, Bonnie Bremser et al. The condition of this item (see below) befits its inclusion in the library of a Bona Fide Beat who appears to have remained true to (never recovered from?) those heady days. Book in near fine condition with moderate shelf-wear, slight bumping & small instances of chipping to fine-edges; moderate-to-pronounced rubbing to front, back covers & spine; small bumps to corners; small stain to bottom right-hand corner of front cover; pronounced spotting to text block. Near Fine. [Item #4735]

Price: $35.00

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