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Under the Volcano (Perennial Classic.) Paperback – April 26, 2000

3.6 out of 5 stars 188 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"One of the towering novels of this century." -- --New York Times

"The book obviously belongs with the most original and creative novels of our time." -- --Alfred Kazin

From the Back Cover

Geoffrey Firmin, a former British consul, has come to Quauhnahuac, Mexico. Here the consul's debilitating malaise is drinking, an activity that has overshadowed his life. Under the Volcano is set during the most fateful day of the consul's life -- the Day of the Dead, 1938. His wife, Yvonne, arrives in Quauhnahuac to rescue him and their failing marriage, inspired by a vision of a life together away from Mexico and the circumstances that have driven their relationship to the brink of collapse. Yvonne's mission to save the consul is further complicated by the presence of Hugh, the consul's half-brother, and Jacques, a childhood friend. The events of this one day unfold against a backdrop unforgettable for its evocation of a Mexico at once magical and diabolical.

Under the Volcano remains one of the most powerful and lyrical statements on the human condition and one man's constant struggle against the elemental forces that threaten to destroy him. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classic.
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: HarpPerenM; 1st Perennial Classics ed edition (April 26, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060955228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060955229
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,707,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Geoffrey Firmin, the former British consul to Mexico, is a prisoner of alcoholism. A victim of the shakes, he hears voices, talks to people who are not there, and hallucinates, though he is often able to hide the extent of his drinking. "True, he might lie down in the street, but he would never reel." On The Day of the Dead in 1938, his recently divorced wife Yvonne returns to Quauhnahuac, over which two smoking volcanoes loom, to try to persuade him to reconcile.

Coincidentally, Geoffrey's half-brother Hugh, with whom Yvonne apparently had a brief affair, also arrives that day, and the three share quarters, each hoping to recapture the past. When they take the bus to Tomalin to a bull-riding event, they see a wounded peasant dying beside the road, the peasant's horse with the number 7 branded on its rump, a tricky pesado, and a group of vigilantes, all of whom play a role in the climax which follows.

Rich with details, both of the external world of Quauhnahuac and the internal world of Geoffrey, the novel, first published in 1947, reflects Lowry's own experiences as an alcoholic. Geoffrey, a fully-rounded character, knows that he must stop drinking in order to function effectively, but he is unable to function at all without drinking. He both loves and despises Yvonne, wants to leave Mexico but wants to stay, and wants to find peace but creates chaos.
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By A Customer on April 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
BEWARE this wretched edition of an otherwise unique novel. There are typographic errors on virtually every page. Some of them ("himse;f") suggest that an earlier text was scanned for this reprint. But if so, it's clear that the publisher didn't bother to have anyone proofread it. With some books it's easy to spot typos, but not _Under the Volcano_: in part because much of it is written from a perspective of maximum alcoholic intoxication, so you'd be justified in thinking the sloppy spelling is somehow meant to approximate that state of mind; but the typos are also misleading because the text is filled with obscure references and a medley of foreign languages. If you're really intent on reading Lowry's masterpiece, find an old hardback or look for the British Penguin edition. This one's a wreck.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Under the Volcano chronicles the last day in the life of the British Consul to Quauhnahuac, Mexico. The surface story recounts how his ex-wife, Yvonne, and his half-brother, Hugh, try to pull him from the alcoholic funk he's fallen into, and in the course of the day, they visit several locations in and around Quauhnahuac.
The descriptive prose makes the setting come alive, and you're left with the feeling of actually seen some of these places. The mini parks, the ruins of Maximilian's Palace, the cinema, the backyard of the Consul's house, and the great volcano, Popocatepetel, which keeps appearing and disappearing, growing and shrinking, as they wander around the landscape - all these things become very real under Lowry's brilliant examination.
Inspired by Joyce, Lowry's book has several parallels with Ulysses. Except for the first chapter, it all takes place in a single day -- November 1, 1938 (the Mexican holiday called "The Day of the Dead.") There are three principal characters, two male, one female, who wander around the landscape, etc. However, Ulysses is an extremely difficult read, and all the interesting parts are below the surface; Under the Volcano is an easy read, and quite satisfactory without looking deeper.
A lot has been written about the deeper meanings of the book, of course, but the most obvious seems to be the allegory to Europe on the edge of war. In this view, the Consul represents the old Europe heading to its destruction despite the efforts of idealists to save it. Or perhaps more accurately, the senseless decline of the Consul to his death parallels the senseless descent of Europe into the destruction of World War II.
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Format: Paperback
Geoffrey Firmin, the former British consul to Mexico, is a prisoner of alcoholism. A victim of the shakes, he hears voices, talks to people who are not there, and hallucinates, though he is often able to hide the extent of his drinking. "True, he might lie down in the street, but he would never reel." On The Day of the Dead in 1938, his recently divorced wife Yvonne returns to Quauhnahuac, over which two smoking volcanoes loom, to try to persuade him to reconcile.

Coincidentally, Geoffrey's half-brother Hugh, with whom Yvonne apparently had a brief affair, also arrives that day, and the three share quarters, each hoping to recapture the past. When they take the bus to Tomalin to a bull-riding event, they see a wounded peasant dying beside the road, the peasant's horse with the number 7 branded on its rump, a tricky pesado, and a group of vigilantes, all of whom play a role in the climax which follows.

Rich with details, both of the external world of Quauhnahuac and the internal world of Geoffrey, the novel, first published in 1947, reflects Lowry's own experiences as an alcoholic. Geoffrey, a fully-rounded character, knows that he must stop drinking in order to function effectively, but he is unable to function at all without drinking. He both loves and despises Yvonne, wants to leave Mexico but wants to stay, and wants to find peace but creates chaos.
Read more ›
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