Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Despite her limited body of work, Jane Bowles (bohlz), author of a novel, short stories, and one full-length play, has been proclaimed by such writers as Tennessee Williams to be a major American writer of prose fiction. Born Jane Auer in New York City in 1917, she was the daughter of Clair Stajer, who had been trained as a teacher, and Sidney Major Auer, who died when his daughter was thirteen. Following her father’s death, Jane was cared for by her affectionate, possessive, and ambitious mother. Problems between mothers and daughters surface throughout Bowles’s work; in In the Summer House, for example, Gertrude Eastman imagines that her daughter is “plotting something.”
After one semester at public school, Mrs. Auer enrolled her daughter at Stoneleigh, an exclusive girls’ school. Less than six months later, Jane fell from a horse, breaking her leg. Because of continuing medical problems, including a lifelong limp, she was sent to a clinic in Leysin, Switzerland, where she was educated for the next two years by a private tutor. On the journey back to the United States, while reading Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932), Bowles met its author, Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Upon her return to America, she announced, “I am a writer, and I want to write.”
Between 1914 and 1937, Bowles lived with her mother in New York City, where she briefly attended acting school before writing “Le Phaeton hypocrite” in French, all copies of which have been lost. In 1937, she met Paul Bowles, composer and author, whom she married in 1938. After a stay in Central America and Paris, the couple returned to New York City and, subsequently, lived in a farmhouse on Staten Island, the model for Miss Goerling’s house in Two Serious Ladies. After traveling in Mexico, they shared a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights with such well-known figures as poet W. H. Auden, composer Benjamin Britten, and striptease dancer Gypsy Rose Lee. From 1947 until 1967,...
(The entire section is 809 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Jane Auer Bowles was born in New York City in 1917, the only child of Sidney and Claire Auer. In 1927, her family moved to Woodmere, Long Island. Jane was thirteen years old and away at summer camp when her father died unexpectedly; she and her mother moved back to New York soon thereafter. As a child, Bowles had a French governess and learned to speak French before English. Later, she attended boarding school but left after less than a year, having fallen from a horse and broken her leg. She developed tuberculosis of the knee and went to Switzerland for treatment. She remained there for two years, studying with a French tutor and spending most of her convalescence confined to bed. From these early experiences, she learned to use her imagination to escape the physical pain and emotional isolation that she felt, developing a captivating wit and charm to deflect attention from her physical disabilities.
She left Switzerland in 1934 and met the writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline on board the ship to New York. They visited frequently during the voyage, and by the time Bowles returned to New York, she had decided to become a writer. In 1935, she began a novel in French, “Le Phaéton Hypocrite” (the hypocritical Phaëton), the manuscript of which has not survived. From 1935 on, Bowles began frequenting nightclubs in Greenwich Village and meeting other young people with literary and artistic interests. At this point, she set the pattern for years to come:...
(The entire section is 513 words.)