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Under The Volcano
Malcolm Lowry
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Under The Volcano

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  18,208 Ratings  ·  1,027 Reviews
Malcolm Lowry's Under The Volcano, first published in 1947, is quite simply one of the great novels of the 20th century. Semi-autobiographical, and taking place during the Mexican festival of the Day of the Dead in 1938, it recounts the last day in the life of the alcoholic ex-consul Geoffrey Firmin. Surrounded by the helpless presences of his ex-wife, his half-brother and ...more
Published (first published 1947)
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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)
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)
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Jan 10, 2009 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 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“Far above him a few white clouds were racing windily after a pale gibbous moon. Drink all morning, they said to him, drink all day. This is life!”
― Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

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 trillio
Helen Ροζουλί Εωσφόρος   Vernus Portitor Arcanus Ταμετούρο   Αμούν Arnum
Έτρεξα μόνη μου,βγήκα δεύτερη.

Αδηφάγος λαβύρινθος αλκοολικών παραισθήσεων και συμβολισμών.

Πέρασα άσχημα βράδια με αυτό το βιβλίο.
Με κούρασε πολύ.
Με έφθειρε εγκεφαλικά. Με τύλιξε μια ψυχρή,αργή μάζα εσωτερικών συγκρούσεων και παραίτησης χωρίς καμία εννοιολογική διαδοχή πέρα απο μια μεθυσμένη και χορταστική αποτυχία στη ζωή και το θάνατο του πρωταγωνιστή.

Το πάλεψα σκληρά να βρω το αριστούργημα που προβάλεται,μα βρήκα μια τρομακτική μονομανία απίστευτα περίπλοκη και παραληρηματική και μια ολοκ

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 constantly, from his first drink in the morning until passing out at night. Reading many of the passages made me feel
Jul 18, 2011 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.

Oct 29, 2009 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 flashbacks
Nick Craske
Mar 05, 2013 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
Jun 28, 2007 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.
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
Feb 24, 2014 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
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A good word to describe 1947’s Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry is languid. This is authentic rambling & genuinely one continuous drivel. All of it: sound and fury signifying… nothing. It’s a true pity that the book is so inaccessible, unreadable; it invites for some spontaneous skimming to occur, something a book must never inspire in its reader. The setting is magnificent, but certainly not unalike Henry Miller with his snooze-inducing masterpiece impostor “Tropic of Cancer,” the uglific ...more
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel about alcohol and it's ability to destroy one's mind and relationships. This is a challenging read, as the Consul's mind has become so saturated in mescal that his thoughts are oftentimes convoluted and incomplete. None of the characters are particularly memorable or likeable, and that is most likely Lowry's intention. The central character here is the booze. Yvonne and Hugh's half hearted attempt to help the Consul are all for naught, as the Consul's poisoned mind is beyond the point of ...more
Aug 14, 2014 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
Nov 21, 2009 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
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mexico
Este libro era muy dificil.

I heard about this book when my friend Julie and I were in Oaxaca, Mexico back in the mid-80s. We had met a young man named Michael while there, and he showed us around Oaxaca and even took us to meet a Zapotec family in nearby Lacalulu.

It was All Soul's Day, and the women in the family were making tamales. Julie and I tried to stir the dough that was in a large caldron. She made it once around, and I could hardly move the spoon though the thick tamale dough. The wom
Mar 06, 2014 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
Liam Howley
Mar 07, 2014 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
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
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The novel that accommodates the two absolute opposites: No se puede vivir sin amar, Hell is my natural habitat...
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
Nov 13, 2008 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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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
Apr 08, 2013 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
Nov 15, 2007 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
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I appreciate all the 5 star reviews for this book, but why did I give it 3 stars instead?

Each character had their downfalls. Each had dreams shattered by one circumstance or another, hence this book read like one I would enjoy to the fullest, yet I can honestly say I only enjoyed parts.

The internal monologue of Firmin (the Consul) alongside his hallucinations and voices in his head were not for me. I read slowly to interpret and soak it in, yet it didn't stick as much as I would expect. I appr
David Lentz
Jun 11, 2011 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
Jeff Jackson
Confession: It took me three tries to get past the first chapter or so. You almost have to take it on the faith that things will become clearer and more compelling -- they will! -- and that the initial chapter is there for a good reason -- it is! -- though that will only become evident as you finish the novel. So don't be deterred by the initial steep path, the views from this Volcano are almost unmatched in 20th Century fiction. It'll reward your patience and careful reading several times over. ...more

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
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"A Drunk, His Wife, and his Brother Walk Into a Bar" or "Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight..."

First thing: I read quite a few of the reviews on here after finishing and I have to say that one thing seems to be missing from most: Under the Volcano isn't credited enough for being, at times, damned funny. The Consul, witty bastard that he is, says some tremendously off-handed remarks that are scathingly and casually genius in their humor. So it's not all as depressing as some wo
Matilda Lou
May 07, 2007 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
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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...
“How, unless you drink as I do, could you hope to understand the beauty of an old Indian woman playing dominoes with a chicken?” 59 likes
“No se puede vivir sin amar” 21 likes
More quotes…