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Swinging the Maelstrom

A Critical Edition

Malcolm Lowry

Publication Year: 2013

Swinging the Maelstrom is Lowry’s story of a musician enduring existence in Bellevue, the psychiatric hospital in New York where Lowry himself spent some days in 1936. The novella, written in Canada between 1942 and 1944, during Lowry’s happiest and most fruitful years, reveals the deep influence on Lowry of the healing experience of his idyllic retreat at Dollarton.
The novella by Malcolm Lowry that appeared in Paris Review in 1963 under the title “Lunar Caustic,” and was published in book form in 1968 does not match the claims made for it by his widow Margerie Lowry of it being the final and definitive version of that work.  This text is neither the version which Lowry wrote in New York City in 1936 (“The Last Address”), nor the partially revised version he drafted in Vancouver in 1939 (still called “The Last Address”), nor the radically transformed version that he undertook in Dollarton between 1942 and 1944 (“Swinging the Maelstrom”).  In a long letter of January 1952 to the influential New York editor and publisher Robert Giroux, Lowry stated clearly that “Swinging the Maelstrom” should be considered as the final, completed version of the novella (which meanwhile had acquired its new title “Lunar Caustic”) and that “The Last Address” should be “looked on as simply the material from which I worked up ‘Swinging the Maelstrom’.”  
The present long overdue scholarly edition reveals the exact status of all the “Lunar Caustic” manuscripts, including the posthumous mix of two versions in published form.  The book includes scholarly editions of both “Swinging the Maelstrom” and “The Last Address,” thus offering the reader unique insight into Lowry’s work. The present edition will allow scholars to engage in a genetic study of Lowry’s novella and reconstruct, step by step, the creative process that developed from a rather pessimistic and misanthropic vision of the world as a madhouse (the 1936 version of “The Last Address”), via the apocalyptic metaphors of a world on the brink of Armageddon at the beginning of World War II (the 1939 revisions of the “The Last Address”), to a world that—in spite of all its troubles—leaves room for self-irony and humanistic concern (the radical transformation of the novella into “Swinging the Maelstrom” in 1942–44).

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Series: Canadian Literature Collection


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p. C-C

Title Page, Frontispiece. Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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p. v-v

List of Illustrations

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p. vi-vi

General Editor’s Note

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

In January 1946, Malcolm Lowry wrote a long letter to the English publisher Jonathan Cape to defend his unpublished novel Under the Volcano against numerous criticisms by a reader for the press. Responding to the reader’s note on affinities between Lowry’s manuscript and Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend, a 1944 novel and already a successful film, Lowry argued that “it was the Lost Weekend that should have inevitably recalled the Volcano,” for he “began the...

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pp. xv-xlii

Upon Malcolm Lowry’s tragic “death by misadventure” in 1957, some of the obituaries claimed that Lowry (b. 1909) had committed suicide because he no longer felt able to write. To counter such rumours, Lowry’s second wife and widow, Margerie Bonner Lowry, created the myth that the last years of his life had been a particularly creative period. In her correspondence with personal...

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Swinging the Maelstrom

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pp. 1-44

A drunkard pauses outside the City Hospital. What evil fate has brought him here, he asks.
The heat rises up from the pavements, a mighty force: New York groans and roars above, around, below him: white birds flash in the quivering air: a bridge strides over the river like life itself. But in none of these things can he find an answer....

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Textual Notes

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pp. 45-54

This scholarly edition of Lowry’s novella Swinging the Maelstrom is based on TS 15-8 in the Malcolm Lowry Papers at the University of British Columbia Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, a copy typed in December 1951 for Robert Giroux, Lowry’s new editor at Harcourt, Brace. In the early 1940s Lowry had written an entirely new version of this novella, and it was this version that he...

Explanatory Notes

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pp. 55-102

Appendix 1

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pp. 103-182

Textual Notes

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pp. 183-190

Appendix 2

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pp. 191-196

Works Cited

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pp. 197-200


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pp. 201-202

E-ISBN-13: 9780776620879
E-ISBN-10: 0776620878
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776608020
Print-ISBN-10: 0776608029

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Canadian Literature Collection