Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Transcription: A brief summary of Under the Volcano

Taken from the Amazon page of the book.

It is the Day of the Dead. The fiesta in full swing. In the shadow of Popocatepeti ragged children beg coins to buy skulls made of chocolate...and the ugly pariah dogs roam the streets. Geoffrey Firmin, HM ex-consul, is drowning himself in liquor and Mescal, while his ex-wife and half brother look on powerless to help him. As the day wears on, it becomes apparent that Geoffrey must die. It is his only escape from a world he cannot understand.

"I think I know a good deal about physical suffering. But this is worst of all, to feel your soul dying. I wonder if it is because tonight that my soul has really died that I feel at the moment something like peace...Sometimes I am possessed by a most powerful feeling, a despairing bewildered jealousy which, when deepened by drink, turns into a desire to destroy myself by my own imagination--not at least to be the prey of--ghosts--"

Malcolm Lowry's Under The Volcano, first published in 1947, is quite simply one of the great novels of the 20th century. Semi-autobiographical, and taking place during the Mexican festival of the Day of the Dead in 1938, it recounts the last day in the life of the alcoholic ex-consul Geoffrey Firmin. Surrounded by the helpless presences of his ex-wife, his half-brother and acquaintances, he descends into a mescal-soaked purgatory, moving inexorably towards his tragic fate. His self-destructiveness reflects a spiritual struggle born of wilful abnegation and passivity, a depressed, existential acquiescence to the futility of positive action.

The story is simple, its manner of telling decidedly not: Lowry's style is dense, symbolic, allusive, the prose thick with resonance, and the structure complex, with flashbacks, abrupt shifts, and a gradual accumulation of information--it is a book that deserves reading and then rereading, for its pattern and subtleties reveal themselves only slowly. Firmin's story anchors the book's political ambience--the rise of Fascism and the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War lie heavily across its pages, and in turn make of Firmin not a character to be pitied but a representative figure of modernity. In this, Lowry's masterpiece has lost none of its power: it speaks to us of suffering and of loneliness, eliciting our compassion under the century's terrible shadow of mortality. --Burhan Tufail

I will do my own write up within the next few days about the novel and where I intend to take it.

1 comments:

tutorphil said...

oh - look - you're an internet star...

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/education/?id=3

'haha' :-)

Meanwhile - your transcription choice is very intriguing - I know nothing about it at all, so I'm looking forward to some literary education...