The volcano revisited

Edicions Viena present Xavier Pàmies' new translation in Catalan of the British writer Malcolm Lowry's monumental work, ‘Under the volcano'

Legend has it that the British writer Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957) discovered Anis del Mono in Granada, during a trip he made in 1933 immediately after the publication of his first novel Ultramarine. There is evidence that in his youth, Lowry coulds not even put on his socks or tie his shoelaces thanks to his fondness for alcohol which was comparable only to his other passion, literature.

Lowry fell in love with Granada and the Villa Carmona, which had a patio with a huge tree in the centre, ideal shelter to get over his massive hangovers. And it was in the caves of Sacromonte and the gardens of the Generalife where he wooed the love of his life, Jan Gabrial, a love that served as inspiration just months before Hitler became chancellor. Lowry not only found love, he also found a propensity for the anise from Badalona and the company of the Guardia Civil and it was Jan Gabrial who became Yvonne Firmin, all of which would be the basis for his tortured yet monumental novel Under the volcano, which publishers Viena has now presented in an excellent edition translated by Xavier Pàmies.

The novel in its time was almost a cult, and its muse-like references lead producer John Houston to take it to the screen in 1988 with Albert Finney, Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Andrews and Katy Jurado. The opening scene alone is worth the price of the ticket stub.

Like Joyce's Ulysses it chronicles just one day. The story is set in a Mexican town and mixes expressionist imagery with the alcoholic haze of Lowry's own life which together make the masterpiece seem perhaps as if it justifies all the pain and sacrifice of his own life.

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