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The existential drinker$
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Steven Earnshaw

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780719099618

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719099618.001.0001

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Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947): singular experiences

Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947): singular experiences

(p.118) 5 Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947): singular experiences
The existential drinker

Steven Earnshaw

Manchester University Press

Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano places the committed drinker, in the form of ex-Consul Geoffrey Firmin, in the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ festival, so that the main character encounters ‘hell’ in physical and spiritual dimensions. The novel is technically innovative in its aim to register the subjective experience of the Existential drinker: Geoffrey Firmin’s world is constructed through a highly-individualised, expressionistic symbolism, a mid-century representation of the modern, alienated self, abandoned and suffering despair in a Godless world – the latter made evident by the novel’s attention to the rise of totalitarianism, which forms the backdrop to the events here on a day close to the onset of World War II. There is discussion of the novel’s difficulty and form, and a comparison of some aspects of the novel with Kafka’s The Trial, and how these relate to representation of the Existential drinker.

Keywords:   Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano, The Trial, freedom, authenticity, despair, alcoholism

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