Friday, 31 December 2010

Miguel Mota's Review of Malcolm Lowry: From the Mersey to the World in Oxford Journals

Helen Tookey has just posted me Miguel Mota's review of the book she edited with Bryan Biggs - Malcolm Lowry: From the Mersey to the World which included my own essay on Lowry's Wirral:

This is a compelling and beautiful book, both to read and to look at. Published in conjunction with the festival and exhibition held at the Bluecoat in Liverpool in the fall of 2009 to celebrate the centenary of Lowry’s birth, Malcolm Lowry: From the Mersey to the World is a suggestively hybrid collection of personal reminiscences, scholarly pieces, fiction and photographic reproductions of visual works. As Bryan Biggs and Helen Tookey point out in their editors’ introduction, the volume addresses the geographical, psychological and creative ‘voyaging’ undertaken by Lowry throughout his life, from his notorious first voyage out to sea in 1927 as a young, middle-class Liverpool schoolboy looking for adventure, to the reluctant return to East Sussex from the squatter’s beachfront paradise he left behind in Dollarton, British Columbia, in 1954, now as the famous author of Under the Volcano. Throughout, the focus is on place and on journeys—not only Lowry’s, but also often the contributors’ own, inspired in each case by illuminating, occasionally life-changing, encounters with Lowry and his writing. Read full article on Oxford Journals

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Las Mañanitas

Some lovely singing is coming out of the church: it is Las Mañanitas The Cinema of Malcolm Lowry: 'Tender Is the Night' Ed. Miguel Mota & Paul Tiessen

Las Mañanitas is a traditional Mexican song that is sung on birthdays and other important holidays. It is often sung as an early morning serenade to wake up a loved one. At birthday parties it is sung before the cake is cut.

As a traditional song with a long history, there are variations of Las Mañanitas, with many different verses. At most Mexican parties only the first two verses are sung, but I have included some additional verses that are occasionally sung, particularly when the song is performed by mariachis.

Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti,
Despierta, mi bien*, despierta, mira que ya amaneció,
Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.

Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte,
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte,
Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio,
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.


This is the morning song that King David sang
Because today is your saint's day we're singing it for you
Wake up, my dear*, wake up, look it is already dawn
The birds are already singing and the moon has set

How lovely is the morning in which I come to greet you
We all came with joy and pleasure to congratulate you
The morning is coming now, the sun is giving us its light
Get up in the morning, look it is already dawn

* Often replaced with the name of the person who is being celebrated

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Retreat of the Howling Dog

Darkness was falling; through the clearing haze the stars came out. Over the broken horizon the Scorpion was crawling. There was the red, dying sun, Antares. The south-east, the Retreat of the Howling Dog appeared. Lunar Caustic

"The Retreat of the Howling dog" is one of the phrases which you can imagine appealed to Lowry. The origins of the phrase are as follows:

Porrima is a star in the constellation Virgo named after the "Goddess of Prophecy" Zawiat al Awwa which is translated "The Angle (or Corner) of the Barker"; from the tradition that the space enclosed by the curve of Epsilon, Delta, Gamma, Eta and Beta marked the "Retreat of the Howling Dog". Robert Burnham Jr: Burnham's celestial handbook: an observer's guide to the universe beyond the Solar System

Gamma (γ) Virgo, Porrima, is a white binary star (some call both yellow) and slightly variable in light; 3 and 3.2, on the waist of the Virgin (beside the waist in this drawing).

The Latins called this Porrima, or Antevorta, sometimes Postvorta, names of two ancient goddesses of prophecy, sisters and assistants of (p.470} Carmenta or Carmentis, worshiped and at times invoked by their women. Porrima was known as Prorsa and Prosa by Aulus Gellius of our 2nd century. [Carmenta was the Roman goddess of childbirth. Pierre Grimal (Dictionary of Classical Mythology) says Carmenta was regarded as a divinity of procreation; she was invoked by two names, Prorsa (head first) and Postversa (feet first), the two positions in which a child can be born]

Gamma (γ Porrima) was specially mentioned by the 13th century Persian astronomical writer Al Kazwini as itself being Zawiat al Awwa, the Angle, or Corner, of the Barker; and Al Tizini (Arabian astronomer, first half of 16th century), with the 15th century Tartar astronomer Ulug Beg, had much the same name for it; but the Persian astronomer Al Biruni (973-1048 A.D.), quoting from Al Zajjaj, said that "these people are all wrong," and that Awwa' here meant "Turn," referring to the turn, or bend, in the line of stars. This interesting early figure is noticeable even to the casual observer, gamma (γ Porrima) being midway between Spica and Denebola, the sides of the Kennel stretching off to the north and west, respectively marked by eta (η Zaniah) and beta (β Zavijava), delta (δ Auva) and epsilon (ε Vindemiatrix).

In Babylonia it marked the 19th ecliptic constellation, Shur-mahru-shiru, the Front, or West, Shur (?); while individually it was Kakkab Dan-nu, the Star of the Hero, and the reference point in their annals of an observation of Saturn1 on the 1st of March, 228 B.C., the first mention of this planet that we have, and recorded by the second-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy. The Chinese knew gamma (γ Porrima) as Shang Seang, the High Minister of State. They culminate on the 17th of May.[Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889].

The stars beta (β Zavijava), eta (η Zaniah), gamma (γ this star Porrima), delta (δ Auva), epsilon (ε Vindemiatrix), outlining this Kennel, formed the 11th manzil (Arabic Moon Mansion), Al Awwa, the Barker, or "the Howler", which was considered of good omen.

Influences of the 11th Arabic Moon Mansion Al Awwa: Gives benevolence, gain, voyages, harvests and freedom of captives.

With Moon transiting here: sow, plant, take medicine but do not travel or marry. (Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology, Vivian E. Robson, 1923)

Truckin' in Lunar Caustic

Say listen,' Battle demanded, 'let's have some truckin' -don't you know any truckin',' 'Very nice,' said Mr ... 'Yeah, yuh give us truckin',' said Battle. Malcolm Lowry Lunar Caustic

I fell on this below while searching for references to Lunar Caustic on the Net:

OK, so this made me wonder about the phrase "keep on truckin'". With a bit of Googling: it's from a dance popular in the 1930s. A song entitled "Truckin'" was written by Ted Koehler and Marty Bloom written "Cotton Club Parade of 1935 (lyrics: “It spread like a forest blaze,/Became a craze,/Thanks to Harlem now,/Everybody's truckin'.” Like other black slang usages, "truckin'" got picked up by the hippies of the 1960s, most notably by Mr. Natural, drawn by R. Crumb in the first issue of ZAP Comix, Feb. 1968. It was in wide countercultural usage by the time the Grateful Dead recorded their "Truckin'" in 1970.

I also found "truckin'" used by one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Lowry, in his book Lunar Caustic, published posthumously in 1963 but started in 1934 (based on Lowry's "deliberate pilgrimage" to Bellevue Hospital about that time), in which "truckin'" is used to refer to a style of jazz piano playing, rather than dance.

So it seems to me the name of the black dance is older than the 1935 song, and is more likely to derive, via a jazz piano style, from the "traffic, intercourse, communication, dealings" usage you cite, than from the wheeled or vehicular sense.
Language Hat

I have been aware for some time that Lowry was partially familiar with African-American idioms in speech and music which he may have picked up on his trips into Harlem or from his residency in Belle Vue. How extensive his knowledge was is open to debate because terms like truckin' were already spilling into the mainstream by the mid-30s. I will return to his other references to African-American culture in later posts.

Here are some other thoughts from The Big Apple:

“Truckin‘“ or “Truck on Down” (1935)
The dance "Truckin" or "Truck on Down" was popularized in Harlem in 1935. Various Harlem spots and entertainers took credit for popularizing it.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
truck, n.
U.S. A popular dance (see quots.). Cf. TRUCK v.2 5, TRUCKING vbl. n.2 2.
1935 Sun (Baltimore) 15 Nov. 14/6 The truck, or truckin', that jerky yet rhythmic dance which combines a bend of the body, a tightening of the hand muscles and a slight strut with the legs, hit the theaters, sidewalks, gin taverns and dance floors of Harlem last summer. 1937 N.Y. Amsterdam News 4 Sept. 12/2 Add a bit of the Shag, the new dance sensation that has pushed the 'Truck' out of the limelight, throw in a bit of the Suzi-Q for a spice and then top it all off with the 'Truck'.

19 July 1935, Washington Post, "Broadway" by Ed Sullivan, pg. 19:
I like best the "Truckin' Down" number led by Cora La Redd. "Truckin'," in Harlem, is a description of a peculiar slouchy walk, and the new dance has the same contagion of rhythm that made an instantaneous hit of the Black Bottom when Tom Patricoa and Ann Pennington brought it to town. With one shoulder hoisted, the dancers do a spraddle-legged walk that finally gives you a terrific yen to try it yourself.

1 September 1935, Chicago Defender, pg. 8:

NEW YORK CITY, Aug. 30. -- Every once in a while Harlem brings some new innovations to the theatre in the form of a dance or a musical tune. Whatever Harlem seems to suggest in the form of something different is readily accepted by Broadway and is then passed on to other cities.

At the present time the newest creation is a dance called "Truckin'" and its sudden popularity and source of origin evidently has all of the newspaper colony in a quandry as to whom should go the credit of beingthe originator.

Writers In Mizz

Most of the writers are in a veritable mizz and have been firing back at each other in their daily releases. Ed Sullivan gave the credit to Cora La Redd of the Cotton Club. Walter Winchell thought that the dance had its conception some five or six years ago, at the old Connie's Inn, which, according to dates, would have been about the time that "charleston" gave way to the "Lindy Hop," although the Lindy did not reach its peak of popularity until 1932.

Allan McMillan, Chicago Defender correspondent, who has kept a complete file of theatrical doings over a period of ten years, says that all of the writers are wrong about the originator of this new dance craze called "Truckin'" because the original idea was introduced by Chunk Robinson, who is at present the comedian starred in the revue at Small's paradise.

Willie Bryant Made It

Robinson saw an aged longshoreman down at the docks shuffling along with a truck laden with four bales of cotton. Robinson noticed that the fellow had an in-and-out movement to his feet and because of the terrific load he was straining with his left shoulder pivoted a trifle higher than his right. This actually accounts for the stance of the new craze which now has Broadway as coo coo as Harlem. Nearly every night club production in Harlem has a "Truckin'" number

According to the data of McMillan, the dance was introduced by Chunk Robinson on the Columbia Burlesque chain of theatres as far back as 1928. There wasn't any particular name for the dance but Chunk continued to do it because it made the people laugh. It also resembled the old "Buzz" step that was recorded back in the old minstrel days of 1915.

Last year when Allan McMillan was appearing at Small's as host, Chunk Robinson and Willie Bryant were playing in the dressing room and unconsciously went into the routine of the present dance termed as "Truckin' On Down." Willie Bryant then decided to make the step popular, the results of which were that Noble Sissle and Flournoy Miller produced a unit "Truckin' On Down:" Noble Sissle composed a song, "Truckin' On Down';" recently published by Handy Brothers Music company; Ted Koehler and Leonard Harper built a huge production number in their recent revue around "Truckin';" practically every kid on the streets of Harlem ranging in ages from six to twelve may be seen in his or her version of "Truckin'"...the grown-ups are singing it...and on Broadway the cry is where did this "Truckin'" come from?

14 September 1935, Chicago Defender, pg. 8:
Here's How
Got Famous

Chicago Defender,
Chicago, Ill.

Dear Sirs:

I would like for you to know the history of the dance called "Trucking."

The first revival of the dance was done on May 3, 1935 at the Harlem Opera House in the show called "Truck on Down." That's where I revived the dance and made it the talk of Harlem when we popularized it at the Harlem Opera House. Its first big moment was here. The title was given it by Red and Struggle, and they named it "Truck on Down," almost two years ago in Philadelphia. The dance originally came from a man named Buzz Barton. It was then called the "Buzz."

Miss La Redd says she originated the dance and the Cotton Club it was originated there. The first song "Truck on Down," was written by Noble Sissle and Harry Brooks. Therefore, by my being the first to popularize this dance five months ago, I claim myself the original reviver of the dance and named it "Truck on Down." I am now at the Cotton Club doing my dance to the tune of Ted Cola's "Truck."

I wish that you would take this matter into consideration immediately as we are seeming to have an awfully big battle at the Cotton Club as to whom the credit belongs.

Yours sincerely,

Henry (Rubber Legs) Williams.

Here's Cora in action

Here's Duke Ellington and his Orchestra - vocal Ivy Anderson - Truckin' - Brunswick 7514 - 1933:

All-female dance band of the 30s. Leader and singer Ina Ray Hutton with their version:

The word Truckin' was also used in the classic number by Eddie Kendricks which was the name of the Radio Merseyside soul show in the 70's hosted by Terry Lennaine - so we come back to Lowry's Liverpool!:

Let's go pout with a bit of counter culture which Lowry would have signed up for even got skeletons thrown in!!!:

Portrait de Malcolm Lowry en poète par Caroline Sagot Duvaur

I recently came across this piece below by the French writer Caroline Sagot Duvauroux:

Le poème demande à être fabriqué en cèdre, à la hache
À la scie, au pied-de-biche, en deux coups de cuiller à pot
Entre brouette et arrosoir
Aileron tournant de la baleine geignarde
Poêle en fer réparé avant le thé
Au métal blanc, à coup de cisailles
Avec charbon de bois, sel, amiante et sel marin

Voilà pour l’établi.

Suit immédiatement :

Note pour un poème
Étudiez le verbe irrégulier to die

Voilà pour le sujet.

Si la mort (le vautour) peut voler pour l’amour de voler
est-il rien que la vie ne pût faire pour l’amour de mourir

Mourir en langue pongouée (c’est une langue du Gabon) ne se conjugue pas.
C’est le lieu qui se conjugue et te meurt. Tous les peintres sont pongoués. Et Malcolm Lowry du volcan est un peintre.

Et le lieu tue le consul pendant qu’Yvonne rejoint le lieu, les constellations.
Une géographie tue l’histoire, une géologie remplace les personnages, non pas les sujets. Qu’est-ce qu’un poème ? ça, une langue, dont chaque mot est un récit en deuil du surgissement, qui se rétracte et se déploie sur une page pour que surgisse l’à nouveau.

Et le volcan revendique le poème qui explose en milliers de lambeaux éparpillés sur l’espace du volcan. Le poème est devenu nucléaire, fissuré, cellule cancéreuse qui se nourrit de l’unité perdue.

Si on peut dire que Les fleurs du mal sont un roman (Michel Butor), on peut dire que le Volcan est un poème tant il est vrai que la langue du poème cherche avant tout, dans ses glissements lexicaux et analogiques, dans ses refrains désuets et ses énigmes, cherche sa faillite de langue, cherche le son, l’image, mieux, cherche le son du sens, l’allitération de l’obscur, échoue sur le mot qui se détache de la vision, comme une main d’œil, pour dire : mystère.

Mais Malcolm Lowry n’a pas dit son dernier mot ou du moins ne le sait pas. Il écrit des poèmes. Pourquoi ? Il veut des poèmes ! Il faut donner acte de ça. Les poèmes dont on dispose n’inventent pas de forme ni ne nous tombent comme des récompenses du grand volcan. Les récompenses du grand volcan sont dedans, détails disséminés, plaisir poétique qui vous regarde et qu’on chope à bourlinguer dans l’affaire. Mais les poèmes existent. C’est autre chose qui s’y cherche, du sens, du refus, l’audace d’une douceur, autre chose qui ne voit pas jour mais qui n’a pas renoncé à chercher.
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BBC 3 April 11th 2010: Malady feat. Lunar Caustic Reading

I missed the above - anyone got a recording?

The great American essayist, Susan Sontag, once said that we all carry two passports – one that allows us into the kingdom of the well and another, which we’re less inclined to use, that ushers us into the realm of the sick. This week’s edition of Words and Music is all about that kingdom of malady – from the famous musical sneeze in Kodaly’s Hary Janos suite to the balm of the Bach aria “Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen”; or, if you prefer, from Harold Pinter’s description of electroconvulsive therapy in The Caretaker to John Evelyn’s eye-watering account of the seventeenth century’s way with bladder stones. Its not all so visceral though. Many indispositions begin in our minds…sometimes they are trivial as in Grieg’s vague feelings of homesickness and sometimes they are serious as in Malcolm Lowry’s grotesque and comical account of the hallucinations brought on by dipsomania.
Talking about illness can be part of a cure so maybe listening can affect a kind of healing too. The readers for this journey into the night-side of life are Rory Kinnear and Anna Maxwell Martin.

Producer: Zahid Warley

More details here

The show featured the following:

Author of text: Malcolm Lowry
Name of text: From Lunar Caustic
From book: From Lunar Caustic
Reader: Rory Kinnear
Dur: 01'59

One of the music tracks played was by Gil Scott Heron which has an ironic touch with regard to Malc's time in NY!

Editing Modernism in Canada - Important news for Lowry Enthusiasts

I am pleased to report some significant news regarding the publishing of new and out of print works by Malcolm Lowry under the banner of the Editing Modernism in Canada project:

The EMiC project is affiliated with and/or partnered with several presses and series of editions: The Porcupine’s Quill; the Canadian Literature Collection, edited by Dean Irvine, and the Anthology Collection, edited by Janice Fiamengo, both published by the University of Ottawa Press; the Laurier Poetry Series, edited by Neil Besner, and the TransCanada series, edited by Smaro Kamboureli, both published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press; the CrossCurrents series, edited by Paul Hjartarson, published by the University of Alberta Press; McGill-Queen’s University Press; and the University of Toronto Press.

The editions in preparation include texts by a wide range of canonical, formerly canonical or popular, and non-canonical authors: Carroll Aikins, Ted Allan, Sol Allen, Irene Baird, Marius Barbeau, Bertram Brooker, Ernest Buckler, Fred Cogswell, Louis Dudek, Sui Sin Far, Marie Joussaye Fotheringham, A.M. Klein, Raymond Knister, Dorothy Livesay, Malcolm Lowry, Hugh MacLennan, Eli Mandell, P.K. Page, E.J. Pratt, F.R. Scott, Elizabeth Smart, Miriam Waddington, Sheila Watson, Wilfred Watson and the collaborative authorship of Martha Ostenso and Douglas Durkin as well as Oscar Ryan, Mildred Goldberg, Ed Cecil-Smith, and Frank Love. Many of these editions include digital apparatuses, and many of the proposed editions will be published online in the EMiC digital repository.

Given the EMiC project’s mandate to supervise and train graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working on their own editions, these editions are but a partial representation of the potential number of EMiC editions.

Our rationale for the selection of authors and texts has been determined by multiple criteria:

1) canonical authors whose works are either out of print or available only in excerpts in anthologies;

(2) canonical authors whose work is in print but unavailable in critical editions;

(3) previously unpublished works by canonical authors;

(4) formerly canonical or popular authors whose works are out of print and otherwise inaccessible;

(5) non-canonical authors whose work has already been the object of previous critical and literary-historical study but remains unpublished, uncollected, or out of print;

(6) marginalized and minoritized authors whose work has not yet been widely recognized as part of modernist literary cultures.

In addition to EMiC editions, the project will issue a series of essay collections and special journal issues with contributions by participants in the 2011 workshop and the 2010 and 2012 conferences.
Read more on EMiC

What is exciting for Lowry enthusiasts is the following which EMiC has in the pipeline:


* Malcolm Lowry, Lunar Caustic, eds. Victor Doyen and Christopher Ackerley. Print edition with web-based apparatus (University of Ottawa Press)

* Lowry and Space, eds. Miguel Mota and Richard Lane. Multimedia book.

* After Lowry, dir. Miguel Mota. Film.


*Malcolm Lowry, In Ballast to the White Sea, eds. Paul Tiessen, Patrick McCarthy, and Miguel Mota (University of Ottawa Press). Print edition with web-based apparatus.


* Malcolm Lowry, The 1940 Under the Volcano, eds. Paul Tiessen, Patrick McCarthy, and Miguel Mota. Print edition with web-based apparatus (University of Ottawa Press)

Probably, the most exciting news is the publication of the supposedly "lost" manuscript of In Ballast to the White Sea. I understand that this publication will be based on an early draft held in Jan Gabrial's archive. This early draft may not be as complete as the one lost in the fire in Lowry's shack in 1944. However, it will provide a glimpse into the long thought lost work which will have huge significance for Lowry enthusiasts and scholars.

I will keep readers posted on above when I have more details.

William C. Bryson: Malcolm Lowry, 11 Years Dead, Is Pawing Through the Ashes of His One Great Work 17/12/68

I first read Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano on the all-night train trip from Central Mexico to the U.S. border at Nuevo Laredo. The trip, particularly in the second class compartment, easily beats a coast-to-coast Greyhound for discomfort. Mexican women with three children and a rooster buy one ticket, and then, once on the train, let their charges squirm their way over into the seat that you, God damn it, paid full fare for.

At every station, sixty people from your overcrowded car elbow their way off, and another seventy push in from the station to get on. Towards the end of the trip, as your back begins to stick to the disintegrating leather of the old upright seats, the sunrise lights up the outskirts of the miserable border town of Nuevo Laredo, sweltering colorlessly in the semi-desert of Northern Mexico.

I had been putting off reading Lowry's novel, partly because it was "about Mexico," and could be found prominently displayed on the paperback racks in all the Sanborn's in Mexico City. And, too, there was something irksomely cultish about the Lowry fans I had met. They talked of Malcolm and Margerie, rather than Lowry and his wife. They had visited all the places in the book. Hadn't Malcolm got that one just right, and now I know exactly how he felt, and drunk too! even though Lowry had lived in Mexico thirty years ago when nothing could possibly have been the same, when the chasm between the tourist and the environment must have been immensely easier to bridge.
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Penguin to publish Lowry's Lunar Caustic

Just found out from the Tesco's website that Penguin are planning to publish Lowry's Lunar Caustic next February:

About the book

'Staring out at the river his agony was like a great lidless eye'. In this stark, compelling and greatly autobiographical novella, Malcolm Lowry tells the story of Bill Plantagenet, a piano player and ex-sailor who has lost his band and his mind drinking in New York. As Plantagenet commits himself to a Psychiatric hospital to suffer his recovery, Lowry writes with eloquent ferocity on the delusions of madness, and the true meaning of sanity.
More info

An autobiographical novella that tells the story of Bill Plantagenet, a piano player and ex-sailor who has lost his band and his mind drinking in New York.

Secondary genre: Contemporary
Total Pages: 96
Genre: Fiction

Tesco Books


Lowry's novella Lunar Caustic has been published in Spain:

La segunda esposa de Malcolm Lowry, la abnegada Margerie Bonner, publicó Piedra infernal (Lunar caustic, en el original) en The Paris Review en 1963. Lowry, que originalmente había concebido este texto como un cuento, nunca lo dio por concluido a pesar de haber trabajado en él durante años. Según sus planes, Lunar caustic integraría el “purgatorio” de su soñado e inconcluso proyecto “El viaje interminable”, en el que Bajo el volcán ocuparía el infierno. Seis años después de su prematura muerte ocurrida en 1957, Margerie publica el texto advirtiendo que se trata de “un trabajo principalmente de ensamblaje, una aproximación al método y a los propósitos de Lowry [...] No añadimos una sola línea”. Y concluye: “Malcolm, no cabe duda, lo habría reescrito todo, pero ¿quién iba a poder hacerlo como él?” Posteriormente, en un acto de audacia editorial, Jonathan Cape publica el cuento como novela en 1968. R.E. Lorente lo traduce al español en 1970, y ahora la editorial Tusquets rescata esta breve y mítica obra maestra con la traducción de Juan de Sola.

Como todos los protagonistas de la obra narrativa de Lowry, Bill Plantagenet, la figura principal de Piedra infernal, se encuentra al filo de su propio abismo. Es un dipsómano pianista de jazz que ha llegado de Inglaterra al puerto de Nueva York. Ignoramos casi todo de su pasado, incluso él mismo acarrea enormes lagunas de su historia reciente. Apenas conocemos un puñado de pasajes donde desdichas y separaciones imperan: la disolución de su banda de jazz, la pérdida de Ruth, su compañera. Tras deambular en completo estado de ebriedad por las calles de Nueva York, ingresa a un manicomio municipal, mezcla de hospital y cárcel, donde conoce a quienes serán sus compañeros: Garry, un chico que vive en un mundo de leyendas e invenciones, siempre ajeno a la realidad de su miseria y de su crimen; el viejo marinero Kalowsky, víctima de un hermano que lo ha internado para sacárselo de encima, suerte de padre sustituto que jamás dejó de buscar en vida el propio Malcolm Lowry; y Battle, un negro mitad ingenuo mitad peligroso, un chiflado en estado de pureza casi angélica.

Allí, Plantagenet vivirá las miserias propias de un psiquiátrico de la primera mitad del siglo xx: entorno insalubre, incomprensión médica, enfermeras impiadosas, pacientes en lamentables estados físicos y psicológicos. Pero también advertirá cómo el amor y la compasión afloran: “Muchos de los que aquí se consideran locos –dice– son simplemente personas que quizás un día intuyeron, si bien de un modo confuso, la necesidad de cambiar, de renacer.”

En ese “modo confuso” está la clave de la piedad y grandeza del protagonista. Algo en el mecanismo de implementación de esa necesidad de cambio falla en estos hombres desahuciados y se produce un deslizamiento, un matiz que para la ciencia de entonces es una patología. Plantagenet se enfrenta al doctor Claggart, encarnación del orden a través de la psiquiatría, y se revela ante la condición de normalidad con la que la sociedad adocena a los individuos para construirse a sí misma.

Plantagenet es una más de las transposiciones que Malcolm Lowry hizo de su propia persona. De hecho, el libro está parcialmente basado en la experiencia de su paso por el legendario Bellevue Hospital de Nueva York. Al igual que Geoffrey Firmin de Bajo el volcán o que Sigbjørn Wilderness de Oscuro como la tumba donde yace mi amigo, Plantagenet es un alcohólico autocondenado, cínico consigo mismo, convencido de que “el camino del exceso conduce al Palacio de la Sabiduría”. Un palacio que (él lo sabe y hacia allá se dirige a toda prisa) también es una tumba.

La prosa de Lowry brilla por su lirismo magnético, casi religioso, y por su alucinatoria manera de representar la realidad perceptiva de un hombre atormentado. Como el ex cónsul de Bajo el volcán, Plantagenet compone su realidad de una manera escalofriante y casi psicodélica. A él acudirán visiones esperpénticas como cristalización de un poderoso sentimiento de culpa, del que no puede escapar; caleidoscópicos paisajes donde se mezclan el pasado y las pesadillas en un collage de intensidad casi insoportable. Esto, junto con la oscura y accidentada vida del autor, ha permitido confundir a Lowry con un escritor maldito. Una etiqueta tan injusta como inexacta. Más que un maldito, Lowry es un místico. La tensión de su escritura acontece luego de una suerte de transverberación teresiana; un éxtasis sin duda alcanzado tras consagrarse a la palabra como única e inestable salvación.

A pesar de tratarse de una novela (o cuento) publicada sin la aprobación de su autor, Piedra infernal no puede considerarse una treta editorial o la acción desesperada de una viuda por publicar los textos inéditos de su marido. Si bien Lowry nunca la publicó en vida, al leerla encontraremos nuevamente lo mejor de este genial escritor, cuya vida autodestructiva fue a la vez una voluntad y un destino, pero sobre todo el germen de una obra refinada, de enorme plasticidad y honestidad poética. ~ Letras Libres

Monday, 6 December 2010

Mezcal Ultramarine

The Ultramarine mezcal, is produced by distilling “mezcalero” agave grown in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico where the plants are harvested at the age of 7 to 10 years old. The spiky “leaves” are cut off, to keep the heart of the plant, which can weigh up to 150 kilos…. Each heart is cut up with a machete to facilitate its cooking. The agave hearts are baked in an earthen oven, then crushed, let to ferment and distilled. Its then bottled after being aged for several months in oak casks. For the cooking, stones are fired at very high temperatures at the bottom of an earth oven, full of agave pieces. These are braised for two or three days. This traditional cooking technique gives mezcal its unique smoky taste which differs mezcal from tequila. Mezcal Ultramarine is now sold “reposado” and an “anejo” is being prepared in barrels in Oaxaca. Read more

Les Indiens mésoaméricains ne connaissaient pas le procédé de la distillation. La seule boisson alcoolisée qu'ils tiraient du maguey était le pulque dont le degré d'alcool était faible (6-8 degrés GL). Les Espagnols, à la recherche d'une eau de vie plus forte, introduisirent en Nouvelle-Espagne au 17 ème siècle, le processus de la distillation, que les Arabes avaient eux-mêmes introduit en Espagne au 8 ème siècle.

Les maguey si abondants allèrent leur permettre d'étancher leur soif et c'est ainsi qu'ils commencèrent à faire fabriquer du mezcal dont la production se développa très vite. A tel point d'ailleurs qu'en 1785, un ordre de la Cour d'Espagne en interdit pratiquement toute fabrication afin de ne plus concurrencer les eaux-de-vie européennes.

C'est pourquoi les autorités vice-royales, installées en Nouvelle-Espagne, autorisèrent, interdirent ou dissimulèrent, selon leurs intérêts vis-à-vis de la Couronne, la fabrication du mezcal. Mais trop de kilomètres séparaient la Vieille Europe du Nouveau Monde et le mezcal survécut. Alexandre de Humboldt signale en 1803, que sa production est telle que les importations d'eaux de vie européennes continuent de baisser.

Durant l'intervention française (1862-1867) " lorsqu'ils revenaient d'une campagne au petit matin, les soldats allaient dans les hameaux se faire servir un petit déjeuner... arrosé de mezcal". Nous ne résisterons pas au plaisir de suivre José C. Segura, le Dr Jesus Valenzuela et D. Lazaro Perez lorsqu'ils évoquent les propriétés médicinales du mezcal: "il ouvre l'appétit et favorise la digestion, accélère la cicatrisation des plaies, calme la douleur, revigore, calme la soif provoquée par l'insolation, procure des illusions agréables, fait disparaître la fatigue, stimule et...avive l'intelligence !
Read more

Lowry, una vida empapada en alcohol

Caricatura del autor de 'Bajo el volcán'. / CARLOS HERNÁNDEZ

A los 18 años ya bebía demasiado. A los 51 su hígado dijo ¡basta! y reventó. No podía más. Entre medias dejó una obra maestra, 'Bajo el volcán', y una serie de relaciones amorosas, todas atormentadas y desquiciadas. 'Bajo el volcán' se nutre, en buena medida, de muchas experiencias autobiográficas. Considerado uno de los grandes títulos del siglo XX, la novela de Malcolm Lowry relata el descenso a los infiernos de Geoffrey Firmin, un ex cónsul británico afincado en México. La acción se desarrolla durante el día de difuntos de 1938. El 'viaje', regado con abundante alcohol, muestra a una personalidad autodestructiva, un ser incapaz de mantener relaciones duraderas. John Huston la llevó a la pantalla en 1984. El filme tuvo dos nominaciones a los Oscar. Read more on

Waiting By The Liverpool Tide

I found this fascinating piece abour drinking in Liverpool including many of my old haunts and perhaps Mal's? on a blog called The Anglogalician Cup:

No se le cita aquí por regalarnos títulos como “Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place", “Ultramarine”; ” In Ballast To The White Sea” o “Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid” . Joder, si a veces las obras estaban a la altura del nombre.

Ni por el epitafio que legó a la posteridad . Y que nunca besó lápida.
Ni por la excusa que nos proporciona todos los días 7 de los años que acaban en siete para tomar mezcal en O Grifón.

No contamos nunca las 73 bebidas alcohólicas que , dicen, menciona en "Under The Volcano". Como mucho, las bebimos.

Ni siquiera porque un día de invierno acudimos a su natal península de Wirral, a pintochear en The Stork Hotel , rodeados de Toffees.

No.Acudimos a Clarence Malcolm Lowry por regalarnos un chorromoco literario tan apropiado a nuestro viaje como este :

"..El camino a Inglaterra, volviera a extenderse en el Océano Atlántico de su alma ?. ¡ Y que insólito sería ¡ Que extraño sería el desembarco en Liverpool, volver a ver el edificio Liver a través de la lluvia brumosa, y aquella lobreguez que ya olía a cebaderas y a cerveza Caegwyrle."

Y se lo agradecemos -mérito al traductor, of course - en The Brewery Tap, al abrigo de la murallas de la Robert Cain Brewery. O en el acogedor The Poste House. Se lo agradacemos en el mítico The Sandon ; en el iniciático The Globe; en The Ship & Mitre; en The White Star ;en Ye Hole In Ye Wall ; En el Roscoe Head; en The Baltic Fleet; en el Lion Tavern; en The Cornmarket; en el Thomas Rigby´s; en el Peter Kavanagh´s; en The Vines; En el Ma Eggertons; en Ye Cracke; en el pagado de si mismo The Philharmonic; en el Central Commercial Hotel; en The Crown Hotel; en ...... Read more

CRITIQUE Malcolm Lowry Merci infiniment Allia éditions

Here's a new book on Malc' Under The Volcano:

Malcolm Lowry
Merci infiniment, 2010
traduit de l'anglais par Claire Debru
Paris, Allia
96 pages
6 € 10

Here's a review on Hippocampe blog:

Finalement, le roman paraîtra chez deux éditeurs simultanément, l’un anglais, l’autre américain. Sans doute que la rédaction d’un addendum au plus important roman de Malcolm Lowry, sous forme épistolaire, aura été nécessaire pour que le projet d’une vie puisse voir le jour… Le problème de l’édition et de la friction entre l’œuvre, son auteur et son éditeur, si déterminants dans notre réflexion sur le livre aujourd’hui (et pourtant si mal envisagé) est posé dans un texte de 1946.
Récemment, une nouvelle traduction de l’ouvrage mythique et hors norme du poète et romancier britannique Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957), Au-dessous du volcan, a été éditée. Dans la petite collection de poche consacrée à des écrits courts, les éditions Allia viennent de publier un document très éclairant relatif à la genèse du Volcan et aux difficultés rencontrées par son auteur pour faire accepter le manuscrit sur lequel il travailla près de douze années. Après la remise de la version définitive de son roman, Lowry reçoit à la fin de l’année 1945 une lettre de son potentiel éditeur Jonathan Cape, faisant état de nombreuses propositions de coupes, de fiches de lectures détaillées critiquant en de très nombreux points les incohérences, longueurs, imprécisions de l’ouvrage et émettant le souhait que l’auteur reprenne son texte. Ce à quoi Lowry répondit dans une très longue lettre constituée de quarante-cinq feuillets qui nous sont offerts pour la première fois intégralement dans une traduction de Claire Debru. Read more

A Serving Of Malcolm Lowry

Check out Scandal Park's images of Mexico

When I consider the books that have shaken me up, Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry is a certain clubhouse leader; not at all an original reaction, given the remarkable raw girth of the autobiographical novel.

The National Film Board of Canada produced a marvelous documentary on Malcolm Lowry in 1976. Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry was nominated for an Oscar.

The film is also a rich repository of images of Mexico. Watching it once again prompted me to revisit my own collection of Mexican photos and to post a few favorites.

Ultramarine Resonates For Me

I picked up the post below while searching on articles about Lowry's Ultramarine.

What Resonates?

From Stephen Metcalf's review of a new collection of Malcolm Lowry tidbits:

“Essentially a humble fellow,” Lowry wrote of his alter ego Sigbjorn Wilderness in the expressionistic bender “Through the Panama,” “he has tried his hardest all his life to understand (though maybe still not hard enough) so that his room is full of Partisan Reviews, Kenyon Reviews, Minotaurs, Poetry mags, Horizons, even old Dials, of whose contents he is able to make out precisely nothing, save where an occasional contribution of his own, years and years ago, rings a faint bell in his mind, a bell that is growing even fainter, because to tell the truth he can no longer understand his own early work either.”

Metcalf calls Lowry's first novel, Ultramarine, "a mediocre novel." It just so happens that I finished re-reading Ultramarine the other night; I read it ten years ago or so and fished it from a box when I was packing books for the move. Had always meant to read it again, and did. Everything I liked in it the first time around I found again: the high-modernist realism paired with long flights of stream of consciousness, the disjunction between his immature internal longings and his macho posturings, the long stretches with nothing but dialogue, all from different speakers and jammed together. The last quarter or so of the book is all heard, not seen. So "mediocre," I don't know. Children's Hospital is mediocre -- the author loses control of the sprawl. Yiddish Policeman's Union is mediocre -- it's just overedited, and felt like software had a hand in producing it. Ultramarine is hardcore. So confident it's hard not to like.
Michael Erard

I agree that Ultramarine leaves a lot to be desired but it is a fascinating text which is much abused which throws many insights into Lowry's writing techniques and his sources and references.


?Cómo convencerá el asesinado a su asesino de que no ha de aparecérsele?

MALCOLM LOWRY, Under the Volcano.


I found this atmospheric photo on Luc Kordas photostream on Flickr

Nordahl Grieg The Ship Sails On Published in France in 2009

I've just discovered that Grieg's wonderful book has been published in France in 2009. The Ship Sails On was an influence on Lowry's Ultramarine and was only published by Knopf in the UK in 1927, remaining out of print since, which is a great shame, given its importance to Lowry scholars and admirers but also because it is a good book.

Here are the details:

Nordahl Grieg, Le navire poursuit sa route [Skibet gaar videre, 1924] (traduit du norvégien par Hélène Hlipert et Gerd de Mautort, revu par Philippe Bouquet, Les Fondeurs de Briques, coll. Ultramarine, 2008).

You can read a review on the Stalker blog.

Sous le volcan de Malcolm Lowry : les livres sous le livre, le Livre sous les livres

Here is an interesting article on the Stalker blog

Malcolm Lowry à son éditeur, Jonathan Cape.

Il y a bien des chemins qui nous font pénétrer dans Sous le volcan de Malcolm Lowry : «On va jusqu’à se demander, écrit ainsi Maurice Nadeau qui fit découvrir le grand écrivain aux lecteurs français, si derrière les livres divers qui constituent ce livre unique ne s’en cache point encore un autre, indéchiffrable celui-là à la façon d’une kabbale moderne» (1). Il y a bien des façons, aussi, de découvrir un grand livre, s’il est vrai que tous les chemins ou presque y mènent, s’il est certain que les chefs-d’œuvre inconnus n’existent point mais que, en revanche, l’œuvre de génie, animée d’une sorte de volonté perverse, fera tout ce qui est en son pouvoir pour nous échapper et, une fois découverte, se défaire de la bride illusoire avec laquelle nous ne parvenons à domestiquer que les livres qui n’ont jamais été libres. La grandeur résiste, la petitesse se donne ou plutôt, se vend. La grandeur a résisté, longtemps et d'une façon que l'on pourrait dire particulièrement maligne à Lowry lui-même, dont l'histoire mouvementée de la création (et de la destruction) du manuscrit de Sous le volcan pourrait à elle seule constituer une splendide épopée de la misère et de la grandeur de la création littéraire. Read more

Writer Jorge Martinez exhibited in Liverpool in 2009

I found this on the Universidad de Playa Ancha website:


Noted writer and academic of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Playa Ancha, Jorge Martínez García, had the privilege of participating in the exhibition "Under the Volcano"in honor of the centenary of the birth of poet and novelist Malcolm Lowry, an activity which held from September 25 to November 22 The national artist presented "Under the Volcano and other works: graphic interpretations of Malcolm Lowry Literature, "a play, which began in January 2006 - which is based on thirty images that arise as a form of interpretation of the works the poet. This will amount to exponents of Latin American and the United Kingdom to share the admiration for the work of Lowry. After the exposure, the neo-Baroque painter well-developed a series of lectures at universities in Britain and Canada.

You can read a thorough article by the Bluecoat's Artistic Director Bryan Biggs about the exhibition, which was staged to celebrate Malc's centenary, in the first edition of The Firminist magazine.

UBC's Copy of Lowry's Ultramarine

Media Release | Feb. 16, 1999

UBC has made a unique and exceptional addition to its Malcolm Lowry collection -- the largest in the world -- with the recent acquisition of Lowry's personal, first edition copy of his first novel Ultramarine, published in 1933.

Lowry's most successful novel, Under the Volcano is ranked as one of the major English literary works of the 20th century. Lowry wrote it in North Vancouver where he lived for many years.

"We already have the first edition of Under the Volcano and Ultramarine is the ultimate scholar's prize," says Prof. Sherrill Grace, head of the English Dept.

The annotated copy of Ultramarine was acquired by UBC at the Pacific Book Auction in San Francisco for $14,000 (US).

"It is a messy book, dog-eared and full of staples and scotch tape with pencil hand-writing all over it. It isn't very pretty," says Grace. "What we see in his copy of the book are the changes in his own writing which he never lived to complete."

The small dark blue hardcover book has been professionally restored to preserve it.

Ultramarine is the story of a naive young upper class Briton who goes to sea as a deckhand in the 1920s and is subjected to rough treatment by the working class crew. Lowry made a similar voyage between leaving public school and entering university and said it was a very unpleasant experience.

UBC Librarian Catherine Quinlan says Ultramarine is a very important addition to the Malcolm Lowry collection, which includes his manuscripts, letters and personal papers.

"We were thrilled to acquire the book. Scholars come from all over the world to UBC to study Malcolm Lowry," Quinlan says. "We've already had half a dozen inquiries about Ultramarine."

The Lowry Collection is housed in the Special Collections and University Archives division in UBC's Main Library.

Ultramarine Publishing Company

The other day, I found this interesting snippet on a blog called Riverrun Bookshop:

But why did he call it Ultramarine Publishing Company?

"I named it for Malcolm Lowry's book, Ultramarine," Chris says. Ultramarine was published in 1933 by Jonathan Cape Publisher in London. "The book didn't sell well. Copies were stored in a London warehouse but like everything else in London, the warehouse was bombed during the war. The books burned. "Then serious interest in Lowry developed later and Ultramarine became a legendary rarity. Always very hard to find." So many books from Chris' Sixties catalogue were being remaindered. He saw Ultramarine as a way to save them. Save them from bombs and fire and book-grinding machines. "Deserving books should stay in print," says Chris.

BBC Documentary Rough Passage

One of the highlights of the recent Lowry Lounge evening at the Bluecoat in Liverpool was the showing of the above.

The documentary was made in 1967 by Melvyn Bragg for BBC2 TV in the UK. The above is a clipping of when it was first shown.

The documentary included material which was later used in the Canadian documentary Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry by Donald Brittain & John Kramer, 1976.

Malc's Mother's copy of Under The Volcano

Sale Information
Sale 1098
11 October 2002
New York, Rockefeller Plaza

Lot Description
LOWRY, Malcolm (1909-1957). Under the Volcano. New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1947.

8o. Original tan cloth, lettered in red (minor fading); dust jacket (some chipping and splitting to edges of panels, with tape repairs on verso). Provenance: Evelyn Boden Lowry, Malcolm's mother (presentation inscription).

FIRST EDITION, second printing. A SUPERB FAMILY ASSOCIATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY LOWRY TO HIS MOTHER on the front free endpaper: "To my mother with love from the author."

Clarence Malcolm Boden Lowry had a turbulent relationship with his mother. Biographer Douglas Day wrote: "Lowry, in his last three years, told his psychiatrists about Arthur and Evelyn Lowry: that the two of them fought constantly; that his father was an alcoholic; that he had been a change-of-life baby, and unwanted by both his parents; that his mother had wanted a daughter, and had coddled him overmuch. To [his wife] Margerie, Lowry recalled that his mother had 'neglected him terribly.' She disappeared for long periods of time with her husband, leaving young Malcolm in the care of a series of nannies, all of whom were (in his telling) at best incompetent, and at worst maniacally sadistic... [his friend] John Davenport comfirms that Lowry spoke of his mother 'only with hatred.'"

In later years, however Evelyn Lowry and her youngest son Malcolm conducted a long and affectionate correspondence. When Under the Volcano was accepted in 1946, Lowry sent two excited telegrams to England--one to Stuart, and one to his mother.


LOWRY, Malcolm, (1909-57). Under the Volcano. New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1947.

8o. Original tan wrappers (chipping and splitting to edges, some tape repairs).

ADVANCE PROOF COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, with "Proof" printed on the upper wrapper. This is an advance copy of the first edition, prepared for distribution to reviewers. (2) Christies

Montgomery Evan's copy of Ultramarine

Sale 1098
11 October 2002
New York, Rockefeller Plaza

Lot Description
LOWRY, Malcolm. Ultramarine. London: Jonathan Cape, 1933.

8o. Original blue cloth, spine stamped in gilt; dust jacket (some light rubbing and soiling with minor wear to edges of panels). Provenance: Montgomery Evans (1901-1954, presentation inscription and bookplate).

FIRST EDITION. PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY LOWRY TO MONTGOMERY EVANS on the front free endpaper: "To Montgomery Evans from Malcolm Lowry-33 Inglewood Caldy Westkirby Wirral Cheshire."

Montgomery Evans was a noted collector of modern literature who formed an important collection of Lord Dunsany material that is now at the University of Delaware. According to the biography provided by the Southern Illinois University, where his papers are kept, Evans "was a confirmed literary parasite, apparently amiable with the requisite iron stomach, and his greatest achievement was the relationships he was able to form in the literary world. Through his friend Hunter Stagg, an editor of a Southern literary magazine, The Reviewer, he obtained entrée to some of the well-known figures of the 1920s. Evans and Stagg together on a European tour in 1924 met Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Sylvia Beach and became friendly with Augustus John, Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Walter de la Mare, and Aleister Crowley (to whom they often refer obliquely). For several years after, Stagg and Evans faithfully corresponded"

Nurit David Milk and Wine paintings

In a lecture delivered at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in May 2000, David examined in detail the affects that three literary tracts had on her Milk and Wine paintings. One was The Pré, a poem by the French poet Francis Ponge; a second, Under the Volcano, a novel by the English author Malcolm Lowry, and the third was James Joyce’s Dubliners. They all deal with the unraveling of one’s life, disillusionment, and the final chapter—death. Towards the end of her talk she admits, “…over the years my painting shifted from affinity with Ponge’s approach, namely belief in the ability to shape the world, or to become acquainted with it, through elaboration of consciousness in the direction of Lowry’s pessimistic, albeit more plentiful, view, and correspondingly from conceptual to figurative painting.” Givon Art Gallery

Howard Hodgkin's Ultramarine

Howard Hodgkin's Ultramarine painting was inspired by Malc's book of the same name according to Matt Egan in the Courant article Explosion Of Emotion: Howard Hodgkin's Paintings Demand A Response From Viewer (February 2, 2007)

Ignacio Ortiz's film 'Mezcal'

Director Ignacio Ortiz's film 'Mezcal' takes a page from Malcolm Lowry's 1947 novel
By Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY -- There's a saying that people here use when knocking back a shot of mescal, the spirit distilled from the agave plant with a fiery sting like the devil's own pitchfork: "Para todo mal, mescal. Para todo bien, también." For everything bad, mescal -- and for everything good, as well.

Malcolm Lowry, the British author whose 1947 novel "Under the Volcano" is easily the best book ever written about mescal and whose own battles with the bottle were the stuff of legend, undoubtedly would have toasted to that judicious proverb.

Set in 1939 in the Mexican provincial city of Cuernavaca (which Lowry called by its Aztec name, Quauhnahuac), "Under the Volcano" chronicles the final tragic hours in the life of Geoffrey Firmin, a dipsomaniacal British consul unable to shake his personal demons. Miraculously reunited that morning with his estranged actress-wife, Yvonne, the consul squanders his last chance at redemption and, through a string of inebriated misunderstandings, is killed and flung into a ravine.

Critics repeatedly have declared "Under the Volcano" to be one of the 20th century's literary monuments. Lowry's prose has provoked many imitators, and his masterpiece inspired a 1984 movie adaptation directed by John Huston, starring Albert Finney and Jacqueline Bisset. Though written by a Cambridge-schooled Englishman, "Under the Volcano" is revered by many Mexicans for being among the most discerning modern depictions of their country's convulsive and incendiary character, along with Juan Rulfo's "Pedro Páramo," published eight years later.

"It's an English novel, its point of view, but it's a Mexican tragedy," says Mexican screenwriter and director Ignacio Ortiz, who first read Lowry's book 30 years ago. "For me, it's the great modern Mexican tragedy about Mexico."

Now Ortiz has become the latest artist to borrow a page, or several, from Lowry, who died 50 summers ago. In his feature film "Mezcal," which finally has reached theaters here after repeatedly being rejected by distributors, Ortiz uses "Under the Volcano" as a jumping-off point into his own sulfurous odyssey.

Read full article

Django Reinhardt Video Quintette du Hot Club de France

I have just found this documentary on one of Lowry's jazz heroes - Django Reinhardt.

Casino de la Selva, Cuernavaca

Casino de la Selva, Cuernavaca

Under The Volcano :

"Palatial, a certain air of desolate splendour pervades it. For it is no longer a Casino. You may not even dice for drinks in the bar. The ghosts of ruined gamblers haunt it. No one ever seems to swim in the magnifcent Olympic pool. The springboards stand empty and mournful. It's jai-alai courts are grass-grown and deserted. Two tennis courts only are kept up in the season....."

The hotel was demolished in 2001-2. A Costco warehouse was built on the site.

Carlos Salinas de Gortari was President of Mexico from 1988 to 1994

The hotel's literary reputation was established one day in 1939 when a hungover British writer named Malcolm Lowry sat down in the patio bar and ordered a drink. Mad on mezcal, Lowry wrote Under the Volcano, perhaps the most monumental Mexican nightmare ever crafted by a foreigner, while in residence at the hotel—the book begins on the Day of the Dead 1939 at the Casino de la Selva, where it ends tragically the next morning. Lowry's aura was so tied to the hotel, that when in 1984 John Huston finally realized his life-long dream of filming this dense, luminescent novel, he moved into the Casino and shot many scenes there.

See more photos from Nicnac1000's photostream relating to Lowry

What He Would Have Wanted

Nicolas Labbe - my e-friend and fellow Lowry enthusiast sent me the above photo sometime ago so I apologise for the tardiness in sharing!

Malcolm Lowry
Late of the Bowery
His prose was flowery
And often glowery
He lived, nightly, and drank, daily,
And died playing the ukulele.

Lowry came up with this little doggerel, as an epitaph for himself. It was meant to be half joke, half serious; which was perfect in regards to the man and his life lived. However, when Malcolm eventually ended up dying at the age of 47, of "misadventure", his second wife refused to have the epitaph put on his tombstone. She simply went with name, and date born and died.

See Malc's headstone in Ripe

So, I present to the world, an alternate headstone design, on a flask. I like to think he would have wanted it that way... (I reserve the right to be wrong, of course)

I love this flask. One of a kind, much like the writer.

See other Lowry images on Nicolas's photostream on Flickr

Alcoholismo y Drogadiccion Cuernavaca

Calle Humboldt: opposite Malcolm Lowry's house. I was delighted to find this psychiatrist's office specializing in alcoholism and drug addiction - for sale - on the other side of the road: the exquisite irony of this would have been enjoyed by Lowry himself, I think.

See Pleroma's photostream of Cuernavaca photos

David Large "Abstractions"

I recently came across an essay by David Large entitled "Abstractions" on the Professional Aesthete blog

The application forms and layers of seeking approval never cease, particularly when there’s something good held just out of reach. Case in point: a proposal for a book of essays coming out of a conference, a book which may or may not be accepted by the publisher. To be part of the proposal, we send in optimistic abstracts, start writing the essay in the meantime without knowing whether it’ll be accepted, and then, I imagine, drastically rework the essay according to editors’ and readers’ reports. And possibly again, once the publishers see the final text.

Below is an encapsulation of my optimism, its coherence (such as it is) in large part thanks to productive discussions with (and recommended reading suggested by) one of my classmates. Kinda off the wall, I think, but some metaphors are strong enough to spin out for a while. Hopefully this is one of them – books as textual cells on a two-dimensional plane? Grad school really is the epitome of self-indulgence.

Strange (pheno)type: Malcolm Lowry’s porous textual cells

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 395–396)

This essay examines the ‘porous’ or ‘permeable’ texts of Malcolm Lowry as case studies, offering a microcosmic parallel to Timothy Morton’s textual ecology as it consists of diverse and interdependent entities exemplified biologically in Darwin’s entangled bank. As Morton argues, the textual ecology is a subset of a cultural ecology – the extended phenotype, as it were, of human culture. Read more

Malcolm Lowry: The Lighthouse Invites the Storm - BBC Radio 4 17/06/07

Malcolm Lowry: The Lighthouse Invites the Storm - BBC Radio 4 17/06/07

Radio Times commentary:

When Malcolm Lowry died 50 years ago, he left behind a jumble of manuscripts and two memorable novels: Ultramarine, based on his experiences at sea as a young man, and Under the Volcano, concerning the last alcohol-fuelled 24 hours of an English ex-consul in Mexico, also a semi-autobiographical story. As novelist and playwright Trevor Hoyle explains, Lowry's demons lay behind much of his fiction, yet they were accompanied by humour and courage. A re-evaluation of this complex and driven man, with archive clips of people who knew him, and extracts from his work.

Has anyone got a recording of this programme to share?

"A Tortured Life Is Key to a Master Work" Life Magazine 10th December 1965

You can read a review of Malc's Under The Volcano by his old Cambridge friend John Davenport for Life magazine here.

Guy Cassier's Adaption Sous le Volcan

Last year, Guy Cassiers adapted Lowry's novel Under The Volcano for the stage.

Après le Triptyque du pouvoir invité l’an dernier, le Toneelhuis de Guy Cassiers retrouve Paris avec Sous le volcan d’après Malcolm Lowry La saison dernière, le Festival d‘Automne et le Théâtre de la Ville accueillaient le Triptyque du pouvoir : Mefisto for ever d’après le roman de Klaus Mann ; Wolfskers d’après les films de Sokourov sur Hitler, Lénine, Hiro Hito ; Atropa, la vengeance de la paix renvoyant à la « mère des guerres », à la guerre de Troie. Trois créations de Guy Cassiers avec le Toneelhuis d’Anvers. Trois moments singuliers et secouants, qui catapultaient dans des univers sauvages, où la frontière entre folie et conscience avait disparu, où les corps vivants des acteurs se fondaient dans leur propre reflet, dans des images instables, mouvantes, trompeuses, éblouissantes… Wolfskers et Atropa sont les noms flamand et grec de la belladone, Mefisto est un démon quasi universel Guy Cassiers, convié de nouveau par le Festival d’Automne et par le Théâtre de la Ville, revient à Paris présenter l’adaptation, avec Josse de Pauw, du livre de Malcolm Lowry, Sous le volcan. Car s’il monte parfois des textes directement écrits pour la scène (Angels in America de Tony Kushner, lui a valu plusieurs prix en 1996), il aime à se plonger dans la littérature, entre autres chez Marguerite Duras (Hiroshima mon amour, 1996), Dylan Thomas (Au bois lacté en 1997), Tolstoï (Anna Karenine 1997) et même Proust, un cycle sur la Recherche du temps perdu qui a marqué les années 2002-2004… Pour lui, une pièce offre un monde clos, tout est dit. En revanche, le roman provoque son imagination, lui donne un espace à faire vivre. Et puis il aime le « langage littéraire ». Qu’il adapte Proust ou Malcolm Lowry, il s’attache à en respecter l’écriture. Read more

Découvrez Sous le Volcan, le roman de Lowry joué au Théâtre du Nord à Lille sur Culturebox !

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The Forest Path To The Spring

The Forest Path to the spring / A forráshoz vezető ösvény
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In memoriam Malcolm Lowry. Canada, Dollarton, Malcolm Lowry Walk, Cates Park.

Hosszú útra mégy magadba',
Oly hosszú útra mégy magadba'...


Max Pol FOUCHET rend hommage à l'écrivain Malcolm LOWRY en proposant la chronique de son livre "Au dessous du volcan", sorti il y a dix ans aux Etats Unis et il y a sept ans en France. Ce récit conte le dernier jour d'un consul anglais, en poste à Quahnahuac, au Mexique, souffrant du même mal que son auteur, l'alcoolisme. Plus que sa vie, ce sont les méandres éthyliques de son esprit et la profondeur de ses blessures que le diplomate nous invite à venir toucher. Max Pol FOUCHET voit dans ce livre un chef d'oeuvre, qui sans cesse invente son langage, et qui est nourri d'une érudition prodigieuse. Il avertit le lecteur que sa lecteur n'est pas facile, au même titre que les livres de William FAULKNER ou "L'Ulysse" de James JOYCE.

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21 Editions of Lowry's Ultramarine?

I came across the Open Library entry on Lowry's Ultramarine while searching the Net researching material for posts on Lowry's first novel.

According to Open Library, there have been 21 editions of Ultramarine since 1933.

You can see details here.

The book has been translated into French, German, Italian and Spanish.

I was interested to read the blurbs on the various book sites about Ultramarine:

In 1933 Lowry published a derivative, seafaring novel, Ultramarine, which he came to regard as ‘an inexcusable mess’. Initially inspired by readings of Eugene O’Neill’s early plays, Ultramarine is a self-conscious search for identity. Its protagonist asks rhetorically, “Could you still believe in… the notion that my voyage is something Columbian and magnificent?” Lowry later conceived a lifelong cycle of novels to be called The Voyage that Never Ends. ABC Book World

Ultramarine, the first published novel by Malcolm Lowry, tells the story of a young man's disillusioned coming of age at sea. Much of the raw material for the novel comes from notebooks Lowry kept during his own stint as a deckhand. Dana Hilliot, the young Lowryesque hero, faces the contempt of many of his fellow seamen, who view him as a spoiled upper-class poser incapable of doing a real man's work. He affects a grimly stoic front while engaging in elaborate fantasies of revenge. Lowry's description of life at sea reveals the boredom and discomfort of a long voyage, relieved only by exhausting labor, sudden danger, and occasional nights of drinking and whoring ashore. His young hero's Conrad and Melville-inspired dreams of adventure at sea are replaced by the grimy reality of a deckhand's daily life. The realistic dialogue, the description of the sea and the port cities, and the hero's fevered inner monologue hint at the richness of language that was to inform Lowry's greatest novel, Under the Volcano. The young hero's moral agonies as he struggles to remain faithful to his fiancee at home may seem comically overwrought to present-day readers, but Ultramarine's rewards certainly outweigh its few flaws. This work of Lowry's youth shows an unruly genius already testing its limits Amazon Books: Customer Review

'Ultramarine' is Lowry's first book, written when he was barely out of college. It tells the story of Dana Hilliot, an upper class schoolboy who gets a place working on a tramp steamer in order to facilitate his passage into manhood. His privileged background leads to the crew not accepting him, and his essentially childish nature means that he repeatedly fails to achieve his aim in matters of sex, drink, camaraderie and heroism. It is a 'rites of passage' novel with a very lonely feel.

The book is unusually constructed, with no real narrative structure. Each chapter begins with obscure, largely meaningless dialogue between crew members, full of sailor's vernacular. This is followed by an episode illustrating yet another failure on the part of Hilliot as a man. The episodic structure gives the book a disjointed feel, almost more like a short story collection than a novel.

'Ultramarine', like so much of Lowry's work, is autobiographical, albeit heavily embellished, written after Lowry's own attempts to find his own manhood as a sailor. Because of this, Lowry is able to convey the shame Hilliot feels very well, and the central character is easy to empathise with. However, Lowry himself was barely grown up when he wrote this, and sometimes the author seems like a child writing about a child, with childish ideas of what it means to be 'grown up'. Simple errors, such as supposedly rough and ready sailors speaking like public schoolboys, repeatedly creep in. That being said, although Lowry later dismissed the book, largely because he believed that he had plagiarised it (which he had in parts, probably because he was drunk when he wrote it, rather than through malicious intent), Lowry's distinctive, lyrical voice can definitely be heard. 'Ultramarine' is, ultimately, proto-Lowry. It is a good first book, but he went on to write much better ('Under the Volcano') and I think that 'Ultramarine' is probably best appreciated by readers already familiar with Lowry.
Amazon Books Customer Review

I do have my own views on Lowry's first novel which will appear somewhere one day! In the meantime, the book is worthy of detailed research which I continues to hold my attention.