Under the Volcano: A Novel

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Harper Collins, Apr 26, 2000 - Fiction - 397 pages
3 Reviews

Geoffrey Firmin, a former British consul, has come to Quauhnahuac, Mexico. Here the consul's debilitating malaise is drinking, and 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 life together away from Mexico and the circumstances that have driven their relationship to the brink of collapse. Yvonne's mission is 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.

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One of the top 100 novels in all literature!
Has anyone taken the time to delve into the abyss of Malcolm Lowry's "Under the Volcano"? Is it more than the best account of dipsomania in literature
? Or is it a somewhat timed portrayal of sick 1920's and 30's Mexico and Europe, a modern anti-hero and the breakdown of values akin to "Ulysses" and "Wasteland"? I read it as a tragedy of disintegration and despair with some very lucid brilliance shining through. The scholars have a good reason to call "Ulysses" the greatest novel of the twentieth century. I didn't get past page 200 and Molly's soliloquy on first attempt either despite good guides. With material like this there's probably no harm in seeing a serious film adaptation to get at least at the plot surface. A university professor once invited her Joyce seminar class to her house in Berkeley to show us a very old black and white "Ulyssses" film. It was terrific. We all enjoyed it. John Huston's "Volcano" is more of a loving tribure to the novel than anything else. After having spent months on the book I looked forward to seeing what Huston would do with it. 

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Simply and by far the most haunting book I have ever read, and one of the most fascinating, poignant and beautifully written. But beware: if you are psychologically vulnerable this book can truly bring you to the brink of suicide.

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About the author (2000)

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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