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Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
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Under the Volcano (1947)

by Malcolm Lowry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,905481,985 (3.81)186
  1. 20
    Post Office by Charles Bukowski (mArC0)
    mArC0: Self-destruction through alcohol and denial; Write what you know: both protagonists destroy themselves though alcohol and denial.
  2. 00
    A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley (laura.aviva)
    laura.aviva: Both have incredible writing and often require a dictionary, which happens to be my favorite kind of book. Alcoholic outsiders hell bent on isolating themselves from all that they hold dear. Riveting.
  3. 00
    Klingsor's Last Summer by Hermann Hesse (chrisharpe)
  4. 00
    The Blind Owl by Ṣādiq Hidāyat (chrisharpe)
  5. 22
    Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (chrisharpe)
  6. 01
    Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (WSB7)
    WSB7: Strong perspectival imagery overhanging(pursuing?)a doomed hero.
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» See also 186 mentions

English (38)  French (5)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  All (48)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
I suspect I might like this more with a second reading. As it is, the prose is dense, often difficult to unpack, but without the jouissance of a text like Ulysses. The conclusion is beautifully rendered, though. I liked that the book granted its protagonist no clemency from his journey of self-destruction. I also thought that the geopolitical backdrop of the novel--the run-up to WWII, the Spanish Civil War--saved it from an otherwise heavy-handed solipsism. ( )
1 vote jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
This one was frustrating because it slips the surly bonds of earth and touches the face of god--the god of joy and the god of pathos, be they the same or different gods, and also Tezcatlipoca the Smoking Mirror and more other gods than you want me to list at this time--routinely, almost casually, but only when it's in that sweet spot where the light strikes the mirror just right and it bursts out of mere smoke and into purest mystic flame. Incredible, virtuoso writing, eliciting that sense of eternal surprised delight that to my mind must be what we mean by oneness with all things.

But that never lasts more than oh a dozen magnificent, munificent pages at a time, and then it weebles and you're back amongst the upper middle class English twits being impressive (but only with the collusion of the author) in the colonies (what's that? Mexico was never a British colony? Don't be a pedant, darling), whether it's showing their more developed moral selves when they find a dead native in the road and the other natives are busy stealing his wallet, or whether it's jumping into the middle of a bullfight to show the vain, cowardly natives how it's done, casually flashing the Anglo-Saxon steel that one is sure oh so sure still lies on the level of tribal memory beneath one's degraded modern exterior. Or it wobbles and suddenly nobody's keeping it heavily light anymore, nobody's even keeping it together anymore, the banter's gone out and everyone's all lachrymose and oh lord save me from alcoholic British melodrama.

So anyway, you can see why they drink. ( )
2 vote MeditationesMartini | Jan 8, 2017 |
Great writing no doubt, but a chore to get through. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
The very first thing you notice about Under the Volcano is the luxurious writing. Lowry's use of language is like sinking in a deep bed of velvet. You fall in and keep falling until you can't extract yourself from the words very easily. Listening to this an audio made it a little more difficult because of the various languages spoken and the switching of points of views. I can understand written Spanish much better than the spoken language.
The very first chapter sets the stage for the following eleven chapters. It is November 2nd 1940 in Quauhnahuac, Mexico and two men are reminiscing about the British Consul, Geoffrey Firmin. Chapter two takes us back exactly one year and we follow Firmin's activities for one short day. Be prepared for a pathetic man's sad Day in the Life. His ex-wife has just returned to Mexico from an extended stay in America in an effort to reconcile with Firmin but ends up having a better time with his half brother. All the while the Consul is drinking, drinking, drinking. It is tragic how he argues with himself about that one last drink. There are mysterious dogs, runaway horses, bullfighting, and of course, the ever present volcanoes. Warning, but not a real spoiler alert: this doesn't end well for anyone. ( )
1 vote SeriousGrace | Nov 11, 2015 |
In post-revolutionary Mexico the failed and severely alcoholic British consul struggles through his final day. Told in a modernist stream of consciousness style, with a flamboyant vocabulary (in several languages), the book creates a vivid picture of rural Mexico and of the Consul's difficulties in accepting that his marriage has failed and his career is effectively over. The book is unusually slow moving, in part because of the extravagant descriptions and detailed psychological explorations. ( )
1 vote sjnorquist | Jan 23, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Malcolm Lowryprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pedrolo, Manuel deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spender, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vandenbergh, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Molte sono le meraviglie ma nulla è più portentoso dell'uomo.
Egli attraverso il mare biancheggiante, sfidando il tempestoso Noto,
si spinge, passando sotto i marosi che gli spalancano intorno abissi;
e la suprema delle divinità, Gea
immortale, instancabile, affatica
solcandola su e giù d'anno in anno con gli aratri, rivoltandola con la razza equina.

E dei volubili uccelli la schiatta cattura e fa sua preda
e delle bestie selvatiche le razze e la natante generazione del mare
con maglie di reti intessute,
l'uomo scaltro;
e doma con artifizi l'agreste
montana fiera, e il giubato
cavallo affrena chiudendogli il collo in un giogo, e il toro delle montagne infaticabile.

E il linguaggio e il pensiero emulo del vento ed a reggersi in città
apprese da sé; e degli inospitali
geli all'aperto e
delle moleste piogge a ripararsi dalle ingiurie,
l'uomo che esce da tutto. Imbarazzato, non va incontro a nessun
avvenire. Ade solo
non troverà modo di scansare:
ma a malattie senza scampo seppe escogitare rimedio.

SOFOCLE, Antigone
traduzione di Camillo Sbarbaro
Benedissi dunque la condizione del cane e del rospo. Sì, con gioia avrei
accettato d'essere cane o cavallo, poi che sapevo che essi non hanno
un'anima che - come, forse, la mia - possa precipitare nell'abisso pe-
renne dell'Inferno e del Peccato. Sì, e prevedendo, presentendo questo
abisso, ad aumentare ancora il mio affanno era l'impossibilità di trovare
quella liberazione, cui tutta l'anima mi aspirava.

JOHN BUNYAN, Grazia abbondante per il Re dei Peccatori
Wer immer strebend sich bemüht, den können wir erlösen.
Colui che sempre si sforza e cerca, noi lo possiamo salvare.

GOETHE
LE GUSTA ESTE JARDIN
QUE ES SUYO?
EVITE QUE SUS HIJOS LO DESTRUYAN!
(finale)
Dedication
A Margerie, mia moglie
First words
Two mountain chains traverse the republic roughly from north to south, forming between them a number of valleys and plateaus.
Quotations
"A little self-knowledge is a dangerous thing."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Original language

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None

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061120154, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:36 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Set in Mexico on the eve of WWII, the story tells of a man in extremis, an alcoholic consul bursting with regret, longing, resentment and remorse, whose climactic moment rapidly approaches..."---Editorial review from www.amazon.com.

» see all 5 descriptions

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