Under the Volcano, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


One of the twentieth century's great undisputed masterpieces, Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano includes an introduction by Michael Schmidt in Penguin Modern Classics.It is the fiesta 'Day of the Dead' in the small Mexican town of Quauhnahuac.

In the shadow of the volcano, ragged children beg coins to buy skulls made of chocolate, ugly pariah dogs roam the streets and Geoffrey Firmin - ex-consul, ex-husband, an alcoholic and a ruined man - is living out the last day of his life.

Drowning himself in mescal while his former wife and half-brother look on, powerless to help him, the consul has become an enduring tragic figure.

As the day wears on, it becomes apparent that Geoffrey must die.

It is his only escape from a world he cannot understand.

His story, the image of one man's agonised journey towards Calvary, became a prophetic book for a whole generation.Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957) was born and died in England.

Between school and studying English at St Catherine's College, Cambridge he spent five months at sea as a deckhand, an experience which gave him the material for his first novel, Ultramarine (1933).

After marrying in Paris, he moved to New York where he completed In Ballast to the White (1936).

Under The Volcano was begun in Hollywood, coloured by a short stay in the Mexico that it describes, and eventually finished in Dollarton, British Columbia.

If you enjoyed Under the Volcano, you might like F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and the Damned, also available in Penguin Classics.'A Faustian masterpiece'Anthony Burgess


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"He had arrived at that stage of drunkenness where it becomes necessary to shake hands with everyone."Malcolm Lowry, 'Under the Volcano'"You have to go to bed now or spend the night in the lawn chair. You know I can't lift you, Dad."-the unknown soldiersI put this book off for a very long time. It was first recommended to me with boundless enthusiasm in New York, by the first alcoholic my own age that I took seriously. I was 19, and I could spot one a mile away. What I didn't know at the time, was how identification isn't always enough. I didn't understand the sub-categories, by which I don't mean the difference between the scotch drinker and the Night Train aficionado; I mean the few who could charm me anyway, in spite of what I knew. They always loved this book because it understood them. They would want me to read it so that I could understand them too. But all I could do was think, "Fuck you, Malcolm Lowry," and not read it.I am really glad I waited. My five-star albatross is neatly written with all characters on point; there are beautiful evocations of the BC landscape, and the drunk is the sun. All lives revolve around him, all day, every day and night, until the end. I have never met one yet who could really see this. They always think they're being ignored, but it's way too hot in their presence for that. Who wrote this book? There are plenty of drunkard's tales that throw the bottles against the local colour, but what half-divine artist sprite inside the drunk made him raise one owly eye to see the planets burning around him and write it down? Surely, there was an angel speaking over his shoulder, or maybe he's just one of the kind that can charm me. Thank God I'm too old for all that.Fuck you, Malcolm Lowry.

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