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Under the Volcano (Perennial Classic.) Paperback – April 26, 2000
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"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
About the Author
Malcolm Lowry (1909–1957) was born in England, and he attended Cambridge University. He spent much of his life traveling and lived in Paris, New York, Mexico, Los Angeles, Canada, and Italy, among other places. He is the author of numerous works, including Ultramarine and Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place.
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This novel reminded me also of Lord Jim by Conrad.
It's of this place and Fermin's complete capitulation to lost love that that Malcolm Lowry writes about so poetically and so full of vigor, rich in imagery and metaphor that one can spend a perhaps a lifetime dicing and slicing it.
With a plot that is largely revealed in the first chapter one is left with perhaps the greatest prequel ever that focuses on the devastation and total loss that Fermin feels with his wife's departure.
The purpose of continuing despite knowing what happens is the words. Start reading out loud and suddenly the novel takes on a life of his own. If I were teaching an English class I'd have the students read a page each from Fermin's love letter at the end of chapter one. It's a blend of passion, beauty, eloquence and alliteration that is thoroughly original and unique. I will surely read that section over and over. It's more than gorgeous, it's rhapsodic. Who would best stand on a stage and read it as part of bringing this book to life? It's fun to think about.
Chapter after chapter. literally hour by hour, Lowry follows Fermin through a day that's full of crowds, drinking, confusion, misunderstanding, hints of past mistakes and regrets and not a shred of hope for the future. It is unrelenting but so beautifully told and so intense that one may pinch oneself as a reminder that is just a book.
I could go on and on. Certainly it's a book that rewards the patient reader and is not one that lends itself to killing time at an airport but in the right quiet place this is one very special ride. I consider my comments merely a placeholder for surely one must read this book repeatedly. I've read it twice now and many passages repeatedly and it still feels fresh and new.
This novel was absolutely astonishing. As soon as I read the last, devastating sentence, I threw it onto my All-Time Favorites List; it landed near the top. Malcolm Lowry may not be considered a modernist writer - I haven’t seen him on any list of modernists - but the stream of consciousness style of writing was on full display, and I was enthralled with it. Geoffrey’s way of thinking, thrashed by the booze and hopelessness, Yvonne’s desire to have a better life with him, and Hugh’s feelings about the situation - all of these were so well crafted. And the descriptions of the locations around Quauhnahuac in the shadow of the volcano were excellent. A tragic, flawless novel. Pathos out the wazoo in this one. Highly recommended.