Jane Bowles’s short stories deal with personal relationships between characters who behave in bizarre and unpredictable ways. The stories contain an undercurrent of fear or foreboding, the cause of which is only sometimes revealed. Characters leave their usual environments and must then cope with new, often hostile ones. Portrayals of women predominate; family relationships—especially mothers and daughters, and sisters—form the core of ever-shifting narratives of emotional betrayal and psychological trauma. Despite the serious and even grim nature of the stories, they are also filled with humor and tenderness. Bowles’s wit shines through in amusing dialogues (or, more often, monologues) and comic juxtapositions of characters’ reactions to their situations. The settings for the stories are places Bowles knew from her travels: Central America, North Africa, and the northeast United States.
“A Guatemalan Idyll”
“A Guatemalan Idyll” and “A Day in the Open” were Bowles’s first published stories. They were originally conceived as part of her novel, Two Serious Ladies, but at the advice of her husband, Paul, these pieces were edited from the novel and published separately. “A Guatemalan Idyll” interweaves several plots. In one, an unnamed male traveler, in Guatemala on business, has an affair with Señora Ramirez, who is staying at the same pension. In another plot, Lilina Ramirez, her younger daughter,...
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