Under the Volcano: A Novel Paperback – Apr 10 2007
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Regardless of what his apologists say, Under the Volcano is Malcolm Lowry's only wholly successful book. Fortunately, it is a masterpiece. Reading it is like willingly submitting yourself to a bout of delirium tremens, with all of the disorientation, terror, and pity that that implies. Under the Volcano isn't an easy book to get through; it is extravagantly lurid and deeply allusive, and its protagonist, Consul Geoffrey Firmin, is a hopeless wreck of a human being. Nonetheless, Lowry's seemingly self-indulgent horrors are justified by the immense power of his fiction.
Under the Volcano takes place in Quahnahac, Mexico, on the Day of the Dead in November 1939, in the shadow of European war. Firmin is in the process of violently drinking himself to death, alternately cowering in the comfort of his few, half-estranged friends and lashing out at them. His ex-wife, Yvonne, has returned from her flight to the United States to attempt to bring Firmin back into line. His younger brother, Hugh, wishes to slip over to Spain to join the last feeble resistance against Franco's fascist government. Firmin's long, doomed day is a progress through metaphysical dread and faint hopes of redemption--hopes that are always dashed by politics, mescal, and the failure of love.
This is one of the handful of fictions that gave the 20th century the Infernos it so urgently deserved. Lowry's attention to the Second World War is oblique, almost evasive, but Under the Volcano somehow remains one of the best literary attempts to grapple with modernity's most terrible moment. Indispensable. --Jack Illingworth --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"[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
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Top Customer Reviews
To give a brief synopsis; a self-deposed Consul living in Mexico becomes an alcholic, and is ignorant to his cheating wife and two-faced friends. This much is assumed when the story starts---it picks up from a point where his wife who has left him returns to Mexico in hopes of pulling him out of his dilemma that he can't do on his own. The whole book takes place on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, a Latin holiday when all give respect to friends/family/people who have died), 1938, in a town shadowed by two volcanos.
"Under the Volcano" is by no means an action book, although it is one of the quicker reads I've had in a while. To quote the afterword given, it is a book that "addresses universal values of love, individual integrity, faith, and brotherhood," while at the same time enveloping the reader in a story that cannot be put down.
Some previous reviewers mentioned that the style of writing was difficult to understand. Certain aspects can complicate, but by no means impede, comprehension of his writing. For instance, since the story takes place in Latin America, there is a lot of Spanish used. Being multilingual helps, but I found that had I not understood Spanish, the general idea would have still been portrayed. Then there is also the occasional lack of punctuation, which signifies the "voices" in the Consul's alcoholic psyche.Read more ›
In the first chapter, which begins on the fittingly gloomy Day of the Dead in Quauhnahuac, Mexico, Lowry immediately sets the tone of the entire novel as we encounter our anti-hero, The Consul, in a perpetual drunken stupor. Chapter 2 begins, oddly enough, on the same day -- one year later in 1939. For the remainder of the book, one follows in the wobbly footsteps of the drunken Consul for what amounts to be 12 hours.
The reader is led on a meandering, if not convoluted, path between lucid sobriety and hazy drunkenness, between the past and the present, & between an ominous and foreboding sense of impending doom to a renewed feeling of hope -- all in an extraordinarily masterful way. For those who discount this book as simply "a book about a drunk," you do nothing more than flaunt your ignorance; it is, instead, a book that speaks uniquely of the human condition, free will, remorse, reconciliation, duplicity, and the duality of despondency and hope.
"The novel can be read simply as a story which you can skip if you want. It can be read as a story you will get more out of if you don't skip. It can be regarded as a kind of symphony, or in another way as a kind of opera--or even a horse opera. It is hot music, a poem, a song, a comedy, a farce, and so forth.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A discouraging and challenging read. Often hard to follow. Often not clear what was real and what a train of consciousnesw. Little positive to take away. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Martin L. Puterman
An all around great book! Was well put together! A must for anyone who likes great literature! Go get it!Published on June 9 2014 by mark corkum
This is the kind of book that you either love or hate. There are already tons of reviews on this site about the book itself from both camps, but if you want to learn more about the... Read morePublished on April 1 2009 by M. Deschenes
The book chronicles, with occasional reminiscences of its characters, events of one day in which Geoffrey Firmin, an ex-British consul in Mexico, sidled up to this inevitable... Read morePublished on March 27 2004 by Matthew M. Yau
This is a difficult book to read, and in the first 50 pages or so I didn't think it was too interesting. Read morePublished on March 16 2004
Where to begin? I finished reading Under the Volcanop three months ago and I am still uncertain about my reaction. Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2004 by J. Huntington Worth
Under the Volcano is one of the towering literary achievements of the 20th century. It is what Ulysses would be if Joyce had been capable of expressing his emotions. Read morePublished on Nov. 17 2003