Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. 1965 hardback from Lippincott. Jacket design by David Lunn.
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. 2014 trade paperback from Harper Perennial Olive Editions. Cover design and illustration by Milan Bozic.
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. 1962 paperback from Vintage. Cover design by Harry Ford.
I have now bought four copies of Malcolm Lowry’s 1947 novel Under the Volcano. The first copy I bought was a cheap movie tie-in edition with a ghastly cover. I later replaced it with the 1962 edition, and reread it. A few years later I resisted buying a 2007 Harper Perennial paperback edition that featured an afterword by William Vollmann. (You can read Vollmann’s afterword—and the entire book, if a 700 page pdf is your thing—here).
On 8 Nov. 2019, I picked up the 2014 Olive edition.
On 22 Nov. 2019, I picked up the 1965 Lippincott hardback, blowing the rest of my store credit in the process. I couldn’t not buy it. I had to have it.
It also matches a folding hard print of Hokusai’s Red Fuji that a student gave me as a gift when I left Tokyo.
This clipping of a 1984 not-really review of John Huston’s film adaptation was folded inside of the book.
For all its bleak, bitter bile, Volcano contains moments of sheer, raw beauty, especially in its metaphysical evocations of nature, which always twist back to Lowry’s great themes of Eden, expulsion, and death. Lowry seems to pit human consciousness against the naked power of the natural world; it is no wonder then, against such a grand, stochastic backdrop, that his gardeners should fall. The narrative teems with symbolic animals — horses and dogs and snakes and eagles — yet Lowry always keeps in play the sense that his characters bring these symbolic identifications with them. The world is just the world until people walk in it, think in it, make other meanings for it.