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Sotto il vulcano

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  16,481 Ratings  ·  894 Reviews
"In apparenza è un romanzo sul Messico, la pietosa epopea di un alcolizzato che si dibatte contro i fantasmi della sua mente, perseguitato dai rimorsi di un'antica colpa inespiabile; o, magari, è un romanzo d'amore. Ma vi si tratta anche d'altro: per esempio, della vacillante salute del mondo, della solitudine, del frantumarsi dell'essere e anche della verità della conosce ...more
Hardcover, 1st edition Vintage, 408 pages
Published 2005 by Feltrinelli (first published 1947)
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Toby I had the impression that he had stayed there at some point during the separation and simply left them behind. Wasn't there a question of his possibly…moreI had the impression that he had stayed there at some point during the separation and simply left them behind. Wasn't there a question of his possibly not having paid his bill last time he was there (implying he may have skipped out, leaving the letters behind)?(less)
Robert Johnson Bad news I am afraid. Not only is this novel done in stream of consciousness but the consciousness in question is severely impaired by end-stage…moreBad news I am afraid. Not only is this novel done in stream of consciousness but the consciousness in question is severely impaired by end-stage alcoholism. When the Consul is having a conversation with his wife, half of the dialogue is made up or misheard by his need for a drink.
The book was difficult to plod through but Lowry is masterful regarding setting and descriptive language.(less)

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Jun 17, 2016 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Purchase a large bottle of tequila and start walking from Ernest Hemingway's house to Vladimir Nabokov's house. As you're walking, take a drink for the sake of squandered love. Then take one for isolation. Take one drink for war, and two for peace. Take one for world-weariness. Take one for betrayal. Take a big one for fear. Take a bigger one for the allure of death. Take one for a chasm opened between lovers. Take one for connections that span oceans, continents. Take one for filthy, homeless d ...more
Glenn Russell
Oct 13, 2015 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Don't be fooled by the usual blurb on this novel telling you the story is about a British consul and his wife, his half-brother and his childhood friend. They are but bit players. This is a novel where the main character is liquor and how liquor turns human blood and the nerves of the human nervous system into trillions of tiny colorful skulls, each skull with a mouthful of shinning white teeth chewing up the host human and, in turn, his relations with everything and everybody. Most appropriatel

I’ve added a bit to this review from a comment I made on Steve Sckenda’s outstanding review of the novel here .

Malcolm Lowry may be one of the best examples of the writer who has one (and only one, so far as we can tell) great novel in him. I have to admit I had never heard of this novel prior to reading it a few years ago. It blew me away.

What I remember best about it is the frighteningly realistic way in which Lowry conveys that the Consul, Geoffrey Firmin, is sickeningly drunk almost consta
Oct 07, 2014 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 2014, reviewed

Labyrinth of streets , wild , lush tropical vegetation impudently encroaching everywhere , seizing the garden and the residence of Consul ; volcanoes majestically tower over the city hiding every moment in the clouds , humidity and heat suffocating everything around . Atmosphere of unspecified horror lurking in the alleys , misery hanging in the air like a premonition of impending storm . Mexico , fiesta Day of the Death , 1938 . And though we know the time and place of action , in dialogues and
Nick Craske
Mar 16, 2013 Nick Craske rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Under The Volcano.
I thought The Tunnel was the most exquisitely drawn book title. But no. Under The Volcano. A fiercely poetic title. Terse in form and rich in mythic imagery.

Under: Beneath and covered by. Below the surface of. At a point or position lower or further down than. In the position or state of bearing, supporting, sustaining, enduring, etc….

This is an incredible book. I'm experiencing an incredible run of great reads and discovering writers who I want to read more of but Malcom Lowr
Lowry could not perform the vital surgery of separating himself from his characters. He suspected at times that he was not a writer so much as being written, and with panic he realized that self-identity was as elusive as ever.

-Conrad Knickerbocker
You could state this novel was amazing. You could name it false. You could call this novel a giant of Modernism. You could pass it off as the rambling obscurities of a overeducated white guy with too much money in pocket and too lengthy a time on his
Jun 28, 2007 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This seemed so promising (self-destruction! love triangles! Mexico!), but after about 150 pages I couldn't hack it. Certainly the most committed stream-of-consciousness study of alcoholism I've ever failed at reading, but in the end I just decided to not become an alcoholic and stopped reading.
Feb 25, 2011 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything that takes place in Under the Volcano exists beneath the rarefied gaze of Popocatepetl, the towering volcano that dominates the south-central Mexican plateau. It is fitting that Lowry chose to make the volcano the omnipresent entity in his watercolor novel, since alcoholism, slumbering through filmy days and slurred nights, can erupt at any time into a furious outpouring of violent emotions, freed from the ruined tatters that constitute the remains of self-control. Such molten rivers ...more
Sep 18, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: sckenda
I can see why many people love this book as a masterpiece. Now several weeks since I completed it, I still experience some potent emotional resonance over its hollow dance of life and its frustrating ambiguities on the locus of evil and purpose. I still expect to look up from the plane of my existence and see the twin volcanoes of its Oaxaca setting, glorious one moment, lonely or threatening the next. That is a good sign that the book has gotten under my skin and shaken me up. But my personal r ...more
Feb 03, 2016 Mala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A hell of a book, i.e., if you can take the hell!

In his seminal essay, 'A Temple of Texts: Fifty Literary Pillars', William Gass has this to say:
"Under the Volcano should have been an entry among this fifty. Imagine it as the roof. It took me three starts to get into it; my resistance to it is now inexplicable, though I suspect I knew what I was in for. I have never read a book more personally harrowing. It is also a rare thing in modern literature: a real tragedy, with a no-account protagonist
Apr 18, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
This is an influential book; Bolano opens The Savage Detectives with an epigraph from it. Under the Volcano isn’t just a book about a drunk and a record of his drunken ramblings. Our protagonist, the British Consul, Geoffrey Firmin is not a classic hero in the Hemingway mould; craggy and square-jawed. Nor is he drowning his sorrows. His primary relationship is not with Yvonne, his estranged wife, but with alcohol.
There are oceans of allusions and references here; the book is packed with them. Th
Mar 20, 2011 Abailart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Under the Volcano

I read the Picador Classics edition (1967) with an introduction by Stephen Spender. Unusually, I read the introduction first, then again after reading the novel, which I read in three sittings. I like Spender, and relate to his reading of the book.

Despite its dual reputations of being difficult and about alcoholism, it is neither. As for difficulty, it’s true that understanding Spanish would be helpful, but the saturated extratextual references to mythology, mysticism, history
It's been a while since I found myself so completely frustrated by a book's ability to be simultaneously truly amazing and annoyingly awful. There were so many things about this book that I really loved. And one thing that especially ruined the entire experience for me and that is Lowry's writing style.

In the dictionary next to the phrase "purple prose" is a giant photo of Lowry, grinning sheepishly, fully aware of his penchant for ornate verbiage. About half way through I took a glance at the
Liam Howley
Jul 16, 2014 Liam Howley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having never read David Foster Wallace, it is probably unfair of me to begin a review of Malcolm Lowry's Under The Volcano with a comment on his work, however, I once had the pleasure of a conversation with a girl, a customer in an establishment I used to work, who upon discussing the various authors she enjoyed groaned at the name of David Foster Wallace. Other than a yet incomplete reading of Everything and More, (it's about maths), I had no insight, so her groan only prompted a question. Was ...more
Apr 13, 2013 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Towards the nightmarish conclusion of Under the Volcano, Yvonne recognizes that the drinks "lay like swine on her soul." That poetic glimpse into Bacchic darkness is a glimpse of the novel's mastery, It is impossible to distinguish it only as a novel about alcoholism, or, even, a return to the primoridal Eden besieged by History's jackboots. Under the Volcano is so much more than that. Each of the principal characters exposes their soul, yet motivations remain dim, much like the fetid cantinas a ...more
Feb 08, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano is a mad prophet’s dream of rising dangers, a masterpiece of symbolism (the animal imagery, Dia de los Muertos, the Volcanoes), a great intertwining of voices (radio, letters, movie posters, remembrances), an encapsulation of the era’s political thought and literature, a surreal, hypnotic journey into the night, and a breathtakingly beautiful book; a sad, half-demented augury. The last 50 or so pages are especially worth it. One the most chilling last lines I ha ...more
Ah, Malcolm Lowry, you were a batshit crazy drunken nut of a novelist at the right time to be so: the mid-20th century -- a time of Jackson Pollock and atonal music and cut-up literary narrative and horrible black box skyscrapers; a time of an artistic aesthetic that, thank God, is dead -- and your obsessively overdescriptive novel in which even the non-drunk characters spout non-sequiturs showed your critically fashionable Joycean penchant for the stream of conscious and ample obscurantist refe ...more
Ian Vinogradus
Place Holder

I read this in about 1974.
It is one of my favourite books ever, though I haven't read it again, yet.
I remember its crystalline clear prose, even though it describes the life of an alcoholic.
Perhaps, he just drank to achieve clarity.

My Alcoholic Theory

Lowry is probably evidence against my theory that alcohol kills the unhealthy brain cells first, therefore it purifies your brain.
If this was ever true of Lowry, I think the alcohol didn't stop at purity, it started on all the other cell
David Lentz
Jun 21, 2011 David Lentz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lowry's narrative technique is bold: here we have the tale of one half of the last day in the life of a man who is drunk. He is a British Consul living in Mexico beneath a volcano. The narrative captures the vision of the drunk experiencing his life, which has become a Kubla Kahn. This can't be easy to render: yet Lowry ambitiously does so in a true 20th century masterpiece. The protagonist literally stumbles through his incoherent existence like Leopold Bloom in the red light district of Dublin ...more
Jun 25, 2015 Lyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true literary masterpiece.

This is minimalistic in scope but brilliantly complex and multi-layered in detail. The exceptional prose is interspersed with flashes of stream of consciousness and eclectic, almost poetic imagery.

The multiple references to Conrad were interesting, almost the flip side of Heart of Darkness as Lowry describes the inevitable collapse of a man and in metaphor, civilization.


The endless walk to the bus station! The endless portentous references to THE HANDS OF FATE! I CAN'T TAKE IT! GAHHHHHH111111!!!!!!1111!

It is taking me a long, long time to read this.

Not because it isn't good. Every time I pick it up I fall into this kind of weird, semi-amazed trance that makes me a.) wish I was drunk, b.) feel slightly drunk, and c.) feel like I haven't had a drink in years and could really use one RIGHT NOW. All at the same time. Which is not an unpleasant rea
Matilda Lou
May 18, 2007 Matilda Lou rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book must be read more than once to understand it. the first time, the reader struggles through the alcohol, the hurt and mexico. the second time, the reader understands the alcohol, the hurt, and mexico. the third time, the reader (me) falls into the book, stays there and appreciates what lowry did as a writer, he let go of everything, understood that he is in no way like the writers of his time (joyce...etc.) and he just writes. His characters are completely flawed and are in no way looki ...more
I've actually been meaning to read this book for over 20 years! It wasn't as difficult as I feared or as fabulous as I hoped. It is, however, an excellent book with prose so luscious I sometimes felt as drunk as the chronically inebriated Consul. Geoffrey Firmin is a British Consul in Mexico whose wife has left him. The book opens with two characters discussing the tragedy of the Consul. The book then begins properly, a year earlier, on The Day of the Dead. The action takes place during the cour ...more
"No se puede vivir sin amar."

Malcolm Lowry levou nove anos a escrever Debaixo do Vulcão, um romance monumental que, pelas suas palavras, tem como tema "as forças que habitam no interior de um homem, e que o levam a assustar-se consigo próprio (...) a queda de um homem, os seus remorsos e o seu incessante combate para alcançar a luz, sob o peso do passado, ou do seu destino."

É um romance muito difícil, que necessita de muita atenção e dedicação, sob pena de ser pouco mais do que o relato das últ
Jul 01, 2015 [P] rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
Was it an achievement to wake up in a dive in El Paso and see the bartender [Carlos?] pulling up the shutters to let in urine-yellow light, which tumbled through the window and fell on the floor, relieving it of its uniform blue-black colour and revealing its true horrifying state? He rather thought it might be. Or perhaps the achievement was to wake up at all. Una cerveza, Señor? Carlos had taken his place behind the bar. [P] yawned, or grimaced. ‘Ah, what? A beer? Sí. Why not, eh?’ Sí? ‘Yes. I ...more
Jan 15, 2009 Jimmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Despite the fact that Under the Volcano has earned enough respect to be considered one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, it is still a dubious distinction among many critics. Some find its inherently autobiographical essence, reprehensible. Others see so much bombastic lyricism in the novel as to make whatever remains of a plot, completely unintelligible. Many see nothing more than a novel about an alcoholic, written by an alcoholic. Of course, such criticisms have not been made w ...more
A.J. Howard
After reading On the Road last year I created a 'guilty disappointment' shelf. Guilty disappointments, according to me, involve the similar feelings of shame involved in indulging a guilty pleasure. It all involves not living up to a arbitrary and self-imposed standard. With a guilty pleasure, at least you get to enjoy the second half of the term. Yeah, you may be infringing on some expectation of personal taste by watching American Ninja Warrior or buying tickets to the new Jerry Bruckheimer ex ...more
Sep 12, 2011 Hadrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, fiction
The multi-layered structure of the prose contrasts with the further descent of the main character. Terrifying and vivid imagery. A masterfully planned novel of wandering and slouching to oblivion. Definitely should be reread.
May 21, 2013 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Survives and yes even thrives despite referring during its horrific/ heartbreaking final chapter to someone "pharting"...Meanwhile there are good verbose books and bad verbose books and the difference between them - a difference blurred, for me at least, by the fact that I just kind of like it when writers use a lot of words - may be analogous to the one between information and noise. Lowry is remarkably high on the former; so his book despite its heft comes off as amazingly efficient: as if its ...more
Feb 05, 2015 Mona rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing, but Compelling

I found it nearly impossible to care about the characters or the story (such as it was), but somehow, I couldn't stop reading this for some reason. The story is also very difficult to piece together.

The book tells the story of alcholic British consul Geoffrey Firmin. It mainly consists of his drunken rantings, thoughts, and hallucinations, although there are also portions of the book told from the point of view of his ex-wife, beautiful former child film star Yvonne
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Malcolm Lowry was a British novelist and poet whose masterpiece Under the Volcano is widely hailed as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. Born near Liverpool, England, Lowry grew up in a prominent, wealthy family and chafed under the expectations placed upon him by parents and boarding school. He wrote passionately on the themes of exile and despair, and his own wanderlust and err ...more
More about Malcolm Lowry...

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“How, unless you drink as I do, could you hope to understand the beauty of an old Indian woman playing dominoes with a chicken?” 51 likes
“No se puede vivir sin amar” 19 likes
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