Sunday, 29 May 2011

Malcolm Lowry on Literary Kicks

Just picked up on an essay on Under The Volcano by Michael Norris on the Literary Kicks site:

Mexico. The land of intrigue south of the border. The place where Dean and Sal headed for ultimate kicks. The destination of choice for taking it on the lam, as in “I’m goin’ way down south, way down to Mexico way” in the Hendrix reading of “Hey Joe”. So many images of Mexico, most of them on the dark side. Think back to the opening scene of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where Humphrey Bogart is down and out in Tampico.

I wanted to get away from the endless Chicago winter. I wanted to feel sun on my face and soft breezes blowing through my hair. I wanted to go to Mexico. So I booked a flight to Querétero, a colonial town in the central highlands, and packed my bags. What to read, though? Graham Greene? Not in the mood. I wanted something dark that penetrated to the heart of my image of Mexico, but I wanted a writer other than Greene. Browsing through the stacks at the library, I found it. Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry.

Lowry started writing Under the Volcano in the late 1930s, finally publishing it in 1947. The novel tells the story of the ex-British Consul of Quauhnahuac, the Indian name for Cuernavaca. The Consul, Geoffrey Firmin, has resigned his post because Britain has severed diplomatic relations with the Mexican government over Mexico’s nationalization of its oil reserves. We see him in 1938, on his last day on earth: November 2, the Day of the Dead. Read more

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