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May 26, 1991|Charles Solomon

THEIR HEADS ARE GREEN AND THEIR HANDS ARE BLUE by Paul Bowles (The Ecco Press: $10.95, illustrated). The author of "The Sheltering Sky" recounts his experiences in Asia and North Africa in this collection of rather odd travel pieces. Although Bowles' writing is handsomely polished, the attitudes he expresses are curious, if not downright bizarre. With effete languor, he searches the Third World for the faded remnants of a past he's imbued with a spurious glamour. He savors the remnants of British colonialism he finds lingering in Ceylon, without considering any adverse effects that the Raj may have had for the local peoples. Reflecting on an outbreak of bubonic plague in southern India, he muses, "I wonder if the almost certain eventual victory over such diseases will prove to have been worth its price: the extinction of the beliefs and rituals which gave a satisfactory meaning to the period of consciousness that goes between birth and death. I doubt it. Security is a false god; begin making sacrifices to it and you are lost."

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