Under the Volcano

Lowry, Malcolm

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Aug-16-2001


The action of this stream-of-consciousness novel takes place over one day--the Day of the Dead--1938, in a remote village in Mexico. The novel opens with a conversation between two who reminisce about the Consul who died one year ago. Thence the work takes the reader back to the preceding year and the principals about whom the story evolves. The Consul (Geoffrey), his former wife Yvonne, his half brother Hugh, and a smattering of characters resonating in the Consul's past come together with some dream or fantasy about reconstructing a life that has been cast asunder by the Consul's alcoholism.

Flashback by flashback, the reader is apprised of the former lives of the central characters as they move together through a surrealistic day in search of some anchor to which they may attach their ill-fated, but obsessively conjoined, lives. Much of the day is mired in the Consul's alcoholic hallucinosis and the reader is challenged to sort the reality from the fantasy as the day ends in tragedy for two of the three primary characters.


This disturbing and often difficult novel is a particularly incisive view into the workings of the mind and imagination of both a writer and a principal character who are controlled by their addiction to alcohol. Despite (or because of) Lowry's own personal intimacy with all stages of alcoholic addiction, this work progresses through one painful day in the life of a man who has given himself over to his addiction. Structurally, the work is at times as chaotic as the life of its protagonist; on the other hand, the insights offered and the beautiful prose and classical allusions are worth the struggle.


First published: 1947 (J. B. Lippincott)


Perennial Classics

Place Published

New York



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