Years of youth (1909-1936)
Born in the Cheshire, close to Liverpool, Malcolm Lowry makes its studies with the Leys School and St Catharine' S College with Cambridge. At the time when it obtains its diploma in 1931, twin obsessions of alcohol and the literature, who will dominate his life, are already well in place. Lowry travelled already much, having sailed in the Far East like foams on the Pyrrhus , a ship of the merchant navy, between the college and the university (1927), and having visited the America and the Germany during its holidays. After Cambridge, Lowry briefly lives in London, where it côtoie the literary circles without truly being integrated into it; it crosses, inter alia, the poet Dylan Thomas. It is at that time that it publishes its first novel, Ultramarine (1933), strongly inspired by its voyage in the Far East. Lowry goes then in France; the January 6th 1934, it marries Jan Gabrial, an actress and American novelist, with the town hall of the fourteenth district of Paris. A little later it meets Jean Cocteau which invites it to the first of the Explosive device . Very quickly, the union of Malcolm Lowry with Jan Gabrial transfers with the sourness; after an estrangement, it follows it to New York, where it is allowed with its demand for 1936 with the hospital Bellevue after a depression due to alcohol. (It will evoke later this episode in Lunar Caustic .)
Genesis of Under the Volcano (1936-1947)
The couple will settle with Cuernavaca, with the Mexico, the end of the year 1936, in the hope to avoid a final separation. It is a failure; end 1937, Lowry which remained only in Oaxaca, enters during another dark time marked by the alcohol abuse. Driven out of Mexico in 1938 because of its scandalous control, Lowry remains a few months with Los Angeles where it meets Margerie Bonner, former starlet of Hollywood and author of detective novels with food vocation. In 1940, it leaves to be established with the Canada, initially to escape the American police force which seeks it for the violences made on the person of its secretary whereas it was in a state of advanced alcoholism. Quickly joined by Margerie, he marries it in 1941, once pronounced his divorce of with Jan Gabrial. Taken refuge in the suburbs of Vancouver, Malcolm and Margerie live and write, often in close cooperation, in a hut on the beach close to Dollarton, at the edge of the Burrard Inlet, bay known for its great beauty; this idyllic framework is frequently evoked in the accounts and poems of Lowry, in particular in Under the Volcano (1947) where Yvonne dreams of a new life in a Canadian paradise, and in the news published on a purely posthumous basis under the title Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961).
Lowry puts in building site Under the Volcano as of 1936. In 1940, a first version completed of the novel is refused by all the editors to which Lowry subjects it; he then undertakes to alter his very in-depth work, with the assistance of Margerie whose influence on the literary work of her husband is undeniable, even if she does not prove always very happy. The manuscript escapes from little from the destruction in June 1944 at the time of the fire of the hut then occupied by Lowry. In 1945, the final version of the novel is finally accepted by Jonathan Cape, the editor of Ultramarine . In 1945 - 1946, Malcolm and Margerie decide to be offered holidays to Mexico to celebrate the end of their labor. In spite of promising beginnings (at this point in time it remains with Cuernavaca, on the spot where the intrigue of Under the Volcano proceeds, which Lowry takes knowledge of the favorable verdict of Jonathan Cape), the adventure turns badly when the couple is contacted by the Mexican services of immigration which require the immediate payment of a fine contracted by Malcolm at the time of its preceding stay. Lowry refuses to yield to this request for bribe hardly disguised, following what Margerie and are definitively expelled to him of the country. (These tragi-comic events will provide him the screen of Mordida , novel made up in 1946 - 1952 and published in posthumous title in 1996). The Lowry husbands then decide to spend the winter 1946 - 1947 in Haiti. Marked by new mishaps, this Haitian voyage, at the conclusion which dark Malcolm in a depressive state and must make a new stay in psychiatric private clinic, allows him nevertheless to discover the very alive culture Vaudou with the the Caribbean; one finds the trace of this experiment in Lunar Caustic , long news published on a purely posthumous basis in 1963, and in a major episode of Mordida .
Last years: glory with the decline (1947-1957)
In 1952, because of the best-seller recontré by Under the Volcano , the publishers Harcourt Brace, then Random House proposes in Lowry to sign a contract for the publication of the vast romantic cycle entitled The Voyage That Never Ends which it meanwhile put in building site. Throughout the Years 1950, Lowry continues an intense literary activity; it composes in particular three novels, The Ordeal off Sigbjørn Wilderness , Dark ace the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid and October Ferry to Gabriola (these the last two works were published in posthumous title in 1968 and 1970; The Ordeal off Sigbjørn Wilderness remains new to date). Nevertheless, it is unable to complete any of these manuscripts, which leads Random House to suspend its contract in January 1954. Confronted with serious financial problems, victim of increasingly alarming health issues of good part caused by the alcohol abuse, and haunted by fear never not to manage to reproduce bursting it success of Under the Volcano , Lowry finishes its life in a semi-wandering: it leaves Dollarton in August 1954 definitively and goes successively to New York, in Sicily, with London and in the Lake District where it remains in spring of 1957. He dies the June 27th of the same year in the village of Ripe, in the East Sussex, following a surdose of sleeping pills absorptive in a state of intoxication. The circumstances of its disappearance remain mysterious; within sight of its self-destroying behavior, the assumption of the suicide cannot be isolated, and the part played by Margerie at the time of the death of her forever completely elucidated husband. At all events, the investigation diligentée by the coroner, as it is of habit to the the United Kingdom in the event of suspect disappearance, concluded with a “accidental death”.
A problematic corpus
Lowry published little of alive sound, compared to the number of unfinished manuscripts which it left. Under the Volcano (1947) is unanimously regarded as its masterpiece, and much agree to see there one of the largest novels of the 20th century. At the same time monument of the late Modernism and precursor of the Post-modernism, this famous text in a bright way method of writing of Lowry, which draws largely with the autobiographical sources for better transfiguring the intimate memories thanks to multiple literary allusions, philosophical, mythological, cinematographic and musical, weaving a screen symbolic system of a great density.
The other texts of Lowry suffer all, to differing degree, of this crushing vicinity. Work does not deserve any less to be approached as a whole, as far as possible: on the one hand, because the practice of recycling, of the rewriting, even of the car-parody, particularly frequent at Lowry, confers a completely remarkable unit to him and makes it possible to light many obscure points; in addition, because many these works present by themselves of great qualities of writing. Some are authentic masterpieces, with the first chief Lunar Caustic or some of the news joined together in the collection Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place ; others, in particular Serious Dark ace the wherein my Friend is Laid and Mordida , are enthralling drafts whose best passages yield it of nothing to the most successful pages Under the Volcano . Ultramarine , shining first attempt of a young particularly gifted novelist, is read still with pleasure, even if one feels there a little too the influence of Conrad $aiken.
The posthumous texts published in the Years 1960 and 1970 were it for the majority in versions heavily altered by Margerie Lowry, sometimes with the more or less remote of the Canadian poet and university assistance Earle Birney. Not very inclined to be encumbered methodological scruples being works whose it estimated partly not without reason being the author, Margerie was authorized often unhappy interventions, inflicting with the passage to the manuscripts damage undoubtedly difficult to repair. The consequences of these rehandlings are minor in the case of Lunar Caustic and of Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place , whose Malcolm Lowry had left publishable versions in the state. On the other hand, the text published of October Ferry to Gabriola results from a so thorough work of rewriting which it is about impossible to have an idea of the exact content of a project to which Malcolm Lowry had however given much of itself during the last years of its life, and a fortiori to evaluate the literary interest of it.
A heritage in the course of revaluation
One a long time regarded Malcolm Lowry as marginal of genius, and Under the Volcano like a single and unexplainable success, kind of “deliver-worship” without antecedents nor clear posterity, which more is reserved for a handle of initiates and admirors fanatic. There is not a doubt that the passably erratic course of Lowry, refugee to the Canada at one time when the modern Canadian literature was only with its first stammerings, as its refusal more or less deliberated to publish its posterior manuscripts with 1947 strongly contributed to this legend. However, fifty years after its death and now that it is possible to reach more easily some of its news, it is necessary to draw up of Malcolm Lowry a portrait much more moderate. Although insulated geographically, it was in epistolary contact all its life lasting with many other Anglo-American writers of foreground, in particular Conrad $aiken and William Gaddis of which it was one of the very first readers and admirors after the publication of The Recognitions in 1957. Atypical novelist if one brings it closer to his predecessors and contemporary British or Irish (including James Joyce, that he claimed not to have read), Lowry occupies on the other hand a completely central place, and remainder clearly asserted, in the history of the American novel, following Hermann Melville and of Francis Scott Fitzgerald which counted among its authors of predilection; its very rich correspondence must for this reason be regarded as one of its major works, so much it shows it concerned about meditate on its literary filiation and to transmit to writers then initial such as David Markson the fruits of a reflection particularly sharpened on the fundamental stakes of the literature. Lastly, it should be noted that several of its most important texts remain badly known, in particular its poetic work (published in its entirety in 1992) and its attempt at film adaptation of Tender is the Night , the novel of Francis Scott Fitzgerald (the scenario worked out by Lowry in 1950 is appeared with the Canada in 1990). It thus remains difficult to precisely measure the stature of this giant of the Anglo-American literature, even if its importance cannot be any more minimized taking into account the projections of research.
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