The 1940 Under the Volcano
A Critical Edition
Publication Year: 2015
Upon completion, The 1940 Under the Volcano was shown by Lowry’s agent, Harold (Hal) Matson, to thirteen publishers in New York and then withdrawn. By that time, Lowry was already working on the 1947 Under the Volcano for which he became internationally renowned.
The 1940 Under the Volcano is a bridge between Lowry’s 1930s fiction (especially In Ballast to the White Sea) and the 1947 Under the Volcano itself. In 1994, it was transcribed for posthumous publication, with a sensitive introduction by Frederick Asals and was offered by MLR Editions Canada in a short print-run. Although Asals wrote eloquently about the position of The 1940 Under the Volcano in Lowry’s corpus, scholars have only recently begun to pay systematic attention to convergences and divergences between this earlier work and the 1947 version.
Published by: University of Ottawa Press
Series: Canadian Literature Collection
Title page, Copyright
General Editor’s Note
This annotated edition of Malcolm Lowry’s 1940 version of his great 1947 novel, Under the Volcano, is the last of three related projects undertaken by an international team of Lowry scholars: Chris Ackerley (University of Otago), Vik Doyen (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Patrick A. McCarthy...
On 28 July 1934, his twenty-fifth birthday, Malcolm Lowry left Southampton for New York to be with Jan Gabrial, his wife of seven months. Already the author of one novel, Ultramarine (1933), Lowry was working on a sequel, In Ballast to the White Sea, and both he and Jan had high hopes that he...
Our thanks go first and foremost to the annotators of this volume, Chris Ackerley and David Large. While editing Malcolm Lowry’s The 1940 Under the Volcano, we were, for a while, simply—or complicatedly—observers, occupying a spot along the sidelines, while the two annotators did their hard...
The “splendid din” of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, published in 1947, was well established across numerous countries and in multiple translations by 1965, when the Selected Letters of Malcolm Lowry appeared. Readers of the Selected Letters were enchanted by their moving and entertaining...
Under the Volcano
It was the Day of the Dead.¹
From the graveyards and the lonely forests, the sound of incantation, the murmur of the processions of the living, who today feasted with the dead, were borne down to the two men. As they turned to watch, mourners, carrying candles in the dusk, wound among the corn above them, on the slope of the hill...
In her room at the Hotel Tropical¹ Yvonne Ames suddenly felt so lonely she
wanted to scream.
She had drunk just enough to make her unhappy, to provide her with a hangover in the morning, and looking out from her window over the Acapulco harbor where she could see the Pennsylvania2 lying out at anchor, she wondered what...
They walked down a little hill and almost immediately were in the square. A long
paper poster strung from tree to tree said: “Hotel Bella Vista Gran Baile a Beneficio de
la Cruz Roja. Los Mejores artistas de la radio en acción.”¹
Preparation was evidently being made for a fiesta. They passed a Ferris wheel, booths, a merry go round...
The bells struck cold and clear across the blue morning.
“Windflowers!”¹ Hugh greeted Yvonne, giving them to her. “I don’t know, you can’t be sure about them. But I think so.”
“How lovely! That’s swell of you,” Yvonne cried delightedly, “just wait here while I go in and put them in water...
The Consul, still in his dress trousers, sauntered down the garden with his hands in his pockets, giving furtive glances, every now and then, over his shoulder. Just like this, he thought, William Blackstone¹ must have left the Puritans in South Boston, to live among the Indians; just like this too, had not he himself, as a...
A wind from nowhere howled over old Mexico.
Hugh Fernhead, refreshed from his swim, lay full length on the day bed of the porch watching the clouds racing across the sky. They made him impatient to be gone. In the garden, the trees were tossing, the plantain leaves rattled, and the water was fluctuant in the pool, slapping...
After a while they all set off in a tremendous hurry for Chapultepec.
“We’ll have a dusty journey,” Hugh remarked, coughing. “Thank goodness the wind’s dropped.”
The telephone began to ring¹ alarmingly in the house behind them and they all paused.
“Shall I run back, sir?” Hugh volunteered...
The bus¹ was not very full at first and soon was rolling like a ship in a heavy sea.
They passed tall hexagonal stands with advertisements for the Morelos Cinema: Las Manos de Orlac;² Con Peter Lorre. Elsewhere posters of the same film showed a murderer’s hands, laced with blood.
“Like Paris,”³ Yvonne said to...
“No señor,” said the little man at the door of Las Novedades¹—ropa, abarrotes—ventas
por mayor y menor²—“I tell you that it is quite impossible. The telephone is
descompuesto.³ It is decomposed.”
The little man shook his head vigorously.
“Yes,” he said.
“Well, that’s that,” said the Consul. “Come on, Hugh...
Finally they walked down toward the restaurant Salón Ofélia—Señor Cervantes¹—
Outside it a waterfall² crashed down into two levels, the lower being a swimming pool. The water on the upper level raced to another falls which, below, nourished a stream leading through thick jungle to a much larger cascade out...
The evening was very still. The smoke from charcoal fires hung in the air. The mountains in the distance, the ranges of massed clouds, the rush built huts and jacales,¹ the corn in the fields, the organ cactus and maguey, the whole world, appeared stunned. Women wearing rebozos, with glowing faces and eyes firelit...
As Scorpio rises in the eastern sky, Orion vanishes in the west.¹
Ah, thought the Consul, that sinister Scorpion of his had much to answer for. Besides imagining it had slain the mighty hunter,² had it not, also, stung the horses Phaeton drove³ on his disastrous ride in the chariot of the sun? Scorpio, sign of the...
Lowry’s echoes are a complex phenomenon. Margerie Lowry once told her husband that she thought that not many people who read Under the Volcano would be able to absorb it all, to understand all the references. Lowry replied, “Well, it doesn’t matter because they are all in the subconscious or unconscious...
Glossary of Foreign Terms
The aim of this glossary is to offer a handy set of definitions to foreign terms that are either not glossed in the annotations or are repeated several times in the text. Everyday items and short phrases are entered alphabetically, under the first key word. Common phrases, broken into smaller units...
The 1940 Under the Volcano is based on the 404-page carbon typescript housed in the Malcolm Lowry Collection at the University of British Columbia Library (Box 26:6-17). That there happen to be no pages numbered 251 and 258 in the typescript causes no interruption at all in the continuous...
Three years before the release of his landmark study, The Making of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano (University of Georgia Press, 1997), Frederick Asals produced the remarkable but little-known essay that we are delighted to include here as an afterword. Focused entirely on The 1940 Under the...