Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry; Under the Volcano by Twentieth Century Fox - review by Derek Mahon

Derek Mahon

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Under the Volcano

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Cape 375pp £8.95 order from our bookshop

Under the Volcano

By

 

Cape have timed the re-issue of Lowry's masterpiece to coincide with the release of the film; but re-issue and reappraisal have long been overdue in any case. Under the Volcano, despite steady sales, has never been much more than a cult, and the time has come for it to be generally acknowledged as one of the great English novels of our time. There's a curious resistance to Lowry in literary circles, as if he pointed in a direction we must not take; whereas, in fact, his example is one of the few shining beacons in a sea of mediocrity. Under the Volcano has suffered, too, from its reputation as a 'drunk book', of interest chiefly to dipsomaniacs; but there's a great deal more to it than that.

There are different kinds of alcoholic writers. Some, like Charles Jackson in The Lost Weekend (an interesting and well-written book in its own right), set out to depict alcoholic psychosis to the virtual exclusion of everything else. Others, like Scott Fitzgerald and Patrick Hamilton, make the booze only part of

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