ShelteringSkySometimes, I dream about traveling to new places with no responsibilities and no worries about money.

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles may have cured me of that dream.

"The Sheltering Sky" tells the story of 3 idle rich people - husband and wife, Port and Kit, along with their friend Tunner - who decide to explore north Africa after World War II. They don't have a plan and so drift from city to city seeing the sites and trying to overcome their boredom. They insist this makes them "travelers", rather than "tourists". They drift through a land of sweltering temperatures and dust storms and bedbugs and lice and biting flies.

The story turns tragic as the trio splits up, Port falls gravely ill, and Kit becomes lost in the desert. But this book isn't defined by plot twists or great character developments. It is an existential tale about people who appear to be drifting through life, with no purpose and no direction. What did this trio contribute to the world on their travels? What did they gain for themselves? What meaning did their lives have? They are searching for something, but even they don't know what that is. And none of them ever finds it.

Every character seems bent on self-destruction in this story. Almost everyone we meet is unlikable - from the 3 main characters to the constantly-arguing-and-probably-incestuous young man and his mother they encounter to a traveler who kidnaps and rapes Kit before adding her to his harem. Port and Kit are each unfaithful to one another during their trip, but only Kit feels any guilt about it.

Some will take offense at Kit's reaction to her rape (she accepts it and even comes to enjoy it), but I saw this as evidence of her decreasing mental stability.

If you are looking for a good travelogue of Algeria and Morocco, skip this one. If you want a commentary on the state of the human condition, this is a pretty good one.