Books: Specialist in Melancholy

THE TIME OF FRIENDSHIP by Paul Bowles. 215 pages. Holt, Rinehart & Winston. $4.95.

The pieces that make up Paul Bowles's first collection of stories in 17 years read like obituaries of the soul. His characters, robbed of purpose, their spirits rubbed flat, move zombielike through exquisitely desolate landscapes —Moroccan ghettos, Algerian deserts, New York subway tunnels. Displaced in the present, they have vague pasts and menacing futures; sighing despair, they search for something unnameable.

Perhaps their quest is for what they find: hostility, hallucination, more intense dislocation, the last retreat of death—Bowles...

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