Jane Bowles was born Jane Sydney Auer in 1917 in New York and grew up in Woodmere, New York. After her father died in 1930, she and her mother moved back to Manhattan. Jane developed tuberculosis of the knee and her mother took her to a sanatorium in Leysin, Switzerland, where she also attended school. It was at this point that she became intensely involved in literature but also developed the insecurities that were to plague her for the rest of her life.
In 1937 she met Paul Bowles. They married the following year and spent their honeymoon in Central America, which would be part of the background for her novel Two Serious Ladies. They then went to Paris, where Jane visited lesbian bars. Though their relationship had initially been sexual, it eventually became platonic, with both of them having sexual relationships – homosexual and heterosexual – outside the marriage. They later went to Mexico where Jane met Helvetia Perkins, who became her lover.
Her novel Two Serious Ladies was published in 1943 but had little success. Paul started writing short stories at this time and had some success. Jane started writing another novel but gave up because of writers’ block. In 1947, Paul moved to Morocco to work on The Sheltering Sky. Jane followed him the next year.
Jane wrote some stories and then the play In the Summer House, which received mixed reviews on Broadway. She worked again on her novel, when back in Morocco, but her active lesbian life and her drinking hindered her. In 1957 she had stroke which affected her eyesight and hindered her writing, though she did fill many notebooks with her writings. She was hospitalised in various places but never fully recovered and died in 1973.
1943 Two Serious Ladies (novel)
1954 In the Summer House (drama)
1966 The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
1978 My Sister’s Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
1985 Out in the World: Selected Letters of Jane Bowles, 1935-1970
1989 Everything is Nice: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles