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Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Under the Volcano (1947)

by Malcolm Lowry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,185552,498 (3.81)205
  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 205 mentions

English (44)  French (5)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  Italian (2)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
A long read - every page full of words, thoughts, emotion, places and people. Not sure if this is stream of conciousness or a long prose poem. The single day of Geoffrey Firmin has taken me nearly a month to read but the writing is so vivid and the content so enthralling I never lost track of where we were. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
Detailing the final hours of a lucid drunk, Under the Volcano takes place over the course of a single day. Its main character, Geoffrey Firmin, is a British ex-consul to Mexico in the 1930s, and on his last day he’s at the end of a years-long journey towards near-constant inebriation, a process in which he’s lost his job, his wife, and his coherence. The day opens with his wife returning, ready to give it another shot, and takes the reader through the Garden of Eden, musings on comparative mythology, a bus ride interrupted by a dead, police-beaten Indian, a bullfight, and a wander through the jungle. All of it takes place on the Day of the Dead, and all of it is drenched in sweaty delirium tremens and unrelenting psychosis, punctuated by blackouts. The text veers wildly across the pages, from memory to hallucination to overheard dialogue to inner self-strangulation -- the prose is a veritable frenzy. Coherence and understanding are kept at arm’s length. Stretches of rule books, tourist folders, radio announcements, letters and street signs are incorporated into the prose without warning, and fragments of memories and dialogue are given in multiple untranslated languages (especially Spanish, but also French and German. I love that kind of thing, but I can imagine not everyone does).

This was not a pleasant read, nor was it intended to be. Lowry’s depiction of the inner life of a long-term alcoholic is very impressive, and it is worth reading.

I’m only giving this three and a half stars, though, because I thought Lowry overdid things in other aspects of the book. The many ways in which he tried to throw in Kabbalistic elements, or Biblical references (and Goethe, and various philosophers, etc.), I felt, were a stretch: they did not work for me. Then there was the insistence on grandeur and universality that the book wants to lend its story. I thought was overdone, too: Under the Volcano is the story of a wealthy Western drunk in Mexico: there really is no need to pretend this is particularly poignant among the poverty, the oppression and the corruption regularly at display in 1930s Mexico. I think what I disliked most about this book is that Lowry seemed to be aware that he was writing a masterpiece and tried to make it An Important Book -- hence the literary references and the grandeur. ( )
  Petroglyph | Dec 20, 2017 |
I thought this was a hard read. It sat on my shelf for a long time without picking it up. May re-read at some point in the future. ( )
  Mark.Kosminskas | Nov 12, 2017 |
3.5* for the book itself

I really liked John Lee's narration but found this book was very difficult for me to process in audio form. The text is often stream-of-conscience style and jumps about & rambles. Plus there's a fair amount of Spanish since it is set in Mexico.

I can see why this is considered a masterpiece and I may end up changing my rating. However my initial reaction was that it was evocative but of a distasteful experience. Plus, I wished that there was a short section at the end tying back to the beginning with Jacques Laruelle. ( )
  leslie.98 | Sep 15, 2017 |
“Their house was dying, only an agony went there now.”

—Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Alternately frustrating and beautiful. Discursive and illuminating. Drunk and sober. Efflorescent and dissolving. Ascetic and dissipated. This book can only be described by how I understand it in opposites. I’d imagine it polarized readers upon its release as much as it variably affected the different personalities within myself. Its challenging linguistic forays forced me to learn the correct pronunciations of Popocatepetl and Ixtaccíhuatl, translate Spanish and German passages, brush up on mythology and biblical parables—all while the narrative is intercut with lines from menus, advertisements and multiple inebriated bursts of dialogue. It could be confusing, it is confusing, but then the protagonist is a “lucid drunk” (to steal an idea from Stephen Spender’s brilliant introduction). Though moments may have been frustrating and downright annoying, there are blocks of this text that will stick with me forever, images seared into memory, ideas that will most likely never be drowned in a decade of reading more straightforward fiction. The local drunk who stinks, needs to shave and showers your face in spit while gesticulating—sometimes that dude sees something the rest of us don’t and he’s got something worth listening to.

Sometimes. I mean, he is living between a pair of goddamn volcanoes, after all. ( )
2 vote ToddSherman | Aug 24, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (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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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 7 descriptions

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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