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Under the Volcano: A Novel Paperback – April 10, 2007
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"[Lowry's] masterpiece ... has a claim to being regarded as one of the ten most consequential works of fiction produced in this century.... It reflects the special genius of Lowry, a writer with a poet's command of the language and a novelist's capacity to translate autobiographical details into a universal statement".
-- Los Angeles Times
"One of the towering novels of this century."--"New York Times"[Lowry's] masterpiece...has a claim to being regarded as one of the ten most consequential works of fiction produced in this century...It reflects the special genius of Lowry, a writer with a poet's command of the language and a novelist's capacity to translate autobiographical details into a universal statement."--"Los Angeles 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. His debilitating malaise is drinking, an activity that has overshadowed his life. On the most fateful day of the consul's life—the Day of the Dead, 1938—his wife, Yvonne, arrives in Quauhnahuac, inspired by a vision of life together away from Mexico and the circumstances that have driven their relationship to the brink of collapse. She is determined to rescue Firmin and their failing marriage, but her mission is further complicated by the presence of Hugh, the consul's half brother, and Jacques, a childhood friend. The events of this one significant day unfold against an unforgettable backdrop of a Mexico at once magical and diabolical.
Under the Volcano remains one of literature's most powerful and lyrical statements on the human condition, and a brilliant portrayal of one man's constant struggle against the elemental forces that threaten to destroy him.
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This novel reminded me also of Lord Jim by Conrad.
The book is heavily influenced by Christopher Marlowe's reading of the Faustus myth, in which a scholar sells his soul to the devil for all knowledge in the world. The Consul is a Faustian figure in his aggressive deconstruction of his own life in exchange for the romances of alcohol and foreign lands. Among other themes is also the relationship between the quality of one's own life: as the Consul's life spirals downwards, Yvonne's garden becomes unkempt, the Consul contemplates that the biblical exile from the garden was actually just God leaving humanity alone in the garden, and a tie to the Faustus theme lies in another character's reading of Marlowe's lines: "Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight..."
Taking place in just one day, the lugubrious Day of the Dead in Quauhnahuac, Mexico, UNDER THE VOLCANO is a bleak story about Geoffery Firmin, a former diplomat, known as the Consul throughout the region. The Consul has forfeited meaning in his life, opting instead for dipsomania; his reeling alcoholism only exacerbates his loneliness. During this day he is reunited with Yvonne, his estranged wife who has returned from abroad in an effort to save their relationship--and Geoffery. To further complicate matters, Hugh, the Consul's half-brother, has been staying with his older brother; Hugh and Yvonne had briefly had an affair. Hugh is the ultimate youthful ideologue (in fact, he represents Lowry in his enthusiastic youth); he is yearning to return to Spain, to take part in its violent civil war.
The story follows the three characters--their interactions, their backstories--until its dark, disturbingly maniacal ending. But where this novel makes its mark, and makes it well, is when the Consul becomes prey to one of his delusional binges. The writing takes on a chaotic disjointedness that is often difficult to read, yet at the same time conveys a brilliance--the Consul's brilliance, wrapped 'round by nonsensical delusion. Often these passages are humorous; yet the humor is always intertwined with symbolic tragedy. Words and phrases. . ."pariah dog". . ."pelado". . ."companero". . .take on very special meanings.
UNDER THE VOLCANO has been acclaimed as one of the most important novels of the Twentieth Century, and for good reason. It is fatalistic, it is disturbing, it is brilliant--it is self-fulfilling. That Malcolm Lowry's own turbulent life ended prematurely contributes all the more to the utter futility and tragedy of his literary masterpiece.
--D. Mikels, Author, The Reckoning
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It was a difficult work to read; it's told from the perspective of a raging...Read more