Under the Volcano

Malcolm Lowry’s masterpiece, written in highly charged, hypnotic prose that borders on poetry, recounts the last day in the life of Geoffrey Firmin, the alcoholic British ex-consul in the Mexican town of Quauhnahuac. Firmin’s descent into his own personal hell is played out against the brilliantly evoked festival of the Day of the Dead. Lowry contains the chaotic wilfulness of Firmin within a tightly controlled narrative and symbolic structure, and the final effect is more reminiscent of Sophoclean tragedy than of anything else in 20th-century fiction.