Bowles’s most celebrated short story is a brutal, ironic tale of fatal misjudgment, of deceit, of appalling cruelty, and of the destruction of a destroyer. Nature, in the form of the Sahara Desert, is as much a protagonist as is young Driss, the tale’s victim.
“The Delicate Prey” revolves around three members of the Filala tribe, two brothers and Driss, the son of their sister, who make a fateful journey to the desert town of Tessalit. Driss is a young, virile man who enjoys the brothels of the town in which he resides. His uncles decide to take a short route to Tessalit through country that comes perilously close to the dreaded Reguibat warriors, a bloody-minded group of land pirates known for their horrible murders of those traveling through their domain.
On the journey, the three meet a lone camel rider who becomes their guide. No one seems to suspect the man except Driss, who questions his motives in serving as their guide. Driss remains quiet about his fears. The man identifies himself as a Moungari, a man from a supposedly peaceful, well-respected place. On a pretext of going hunting for gazelle, the Moungari lures one brother, then the next, to their deaths, shooting each in turn. Imagining the distant shots to be harbingers of a feast to come, Driss meanwhile drifts off to sleep. He awakens in horror when he finally realizes what the earlier shots signified. He sets off toward distant Tessalit, only to stumble across the camp...
(The entire section is 471 words.)