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Malcolm Lowry Quick Facts
Malcolm Lowry , born the in New Brighton, England, and death the at Chalvington with Ripe (in), in Sussex, is a British poet and novelist .
Malcolm Lowry’s Biography
The years of youth (1909-1936)
Born in Cheshire, near Liverpool, Malcolm Lowry attended Leys School and St Catharine’s College in Cambridge. By the time he graduated in 1931, the twin obsessions of alcohol and literature that will dominate his life are already in place. Lowry has already traveled extensively, having sailed in the Far East as a moss on the Pyrrhus, a merchant ship, between high school and college (1927), and having visited America and Germany during his vacation.
After Cambridge, Lowry briefly lives in London, where he rubs shoulders with literary circles without really integrating himself in it. he meets, among others, the poet Dylan Thomas. It was at this time that he published his first novel, Ultramarine (1933), strongly inspired by his trip to the Far East. During a trip to Granada (Spain), he meets Jan Gabrial, actress and American novelist little known, who will become his wife … and the heroine Yvonne of his novel Under the Volcano. During their trip to France, the couple married the to the mayor of the fourteenth arrondissement of Paris. Shortly after, Lowry meets Jean Cocteau who invites him to the premiere of La Machine infernale. The union of Malcolm Lowry and Jan Gabrial is an adventure in itself, their relationship turns sour mainly because of Lowry’s fondness for alcohol after a quarrel, he followed her to New York, where he was admitted at his request in 1936 to Bellevue Hospital after a depression due to alcohol. (He will talk about this episode later in Lunar Caustic.)
The genesis of Under the Volcano (1936-1947)
The couple moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, in late 1936, hoping to avoid a permanent separation. It’s a failure At the end of 1937, Lowry, who remained alone in Oaxaca, entered another dark period marked by the abuse of alcohol. Driven from Mexico in 1938 because of his conduct deemed scandalous, Lowry stays a few months in Los Angeles where he meets Margerie Bonner, former starlet of Hollywood, author of two food-related crime books and also a novel Horse in the Sky . In 1940, he moved to Canada, initially to escape the American police who sought him for violence committed on the person of his secretary while he was in a state of advanced alcoholism. Quickly joined by Margerie, he married her in 1941, once pronounced his divorce from Jan Gabrial. Refugees in the suburbs of Vancouver, Malcolm and Margerie live and write, often in close collaboration, in a booth near Dollarton, on the edge of the Burrard Inlet, bay known for its great beauty. this idyllic setting is frequently evoked in Lowry’s stories and poems, notably in Under the Volcano (Under the Volcano, 1947) where Yvonne dreams of a new life in a Canadian paradise, and in the posthumously published news under the title Listen to Our Voice, O Lord (Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, 1961).
Lowry starts under the volcano in 1936. In 1940, a first completed version of the novel is rejected by all the editors to which Lowry submits it he then undertakes to rework his work in great depth, with the help of Margerie, whose influence on the literary work of her husband is undeniable, even if she does not always turn out to be very happy. The manuscript almost escaped destruction in June 1944 during the fire of the cabin then occupied by the Lowry. In 1945-1946, Malcolm and Margerie decided to give themselves a holiday in Mexico to celebrate the end of their labors. It was during their stay in Cuernavaca, on the very place where the plot of Under the Volcano takes place, that Lowry received a letter from Jonathan Cape, his British publisher, who had already published Ultramarine: he is ready to accept the novel, but recommend significant changes. This will be an opportunity for Lowry to write a long letter of explanation () which allows to understand any the complexity of this novel and measure the determination of its author.
Despite a promising start, Lowry’s second trip to Mexico goes badly when the couple is contacted by Mexican immigration services who demand the immediate payment of a Malcolm fine on his previous stay. Lowry refuses to yield to this request for a barely disguised bribe, after which Margerie and he are definitively expelled from the country. (These tragicomic events will provide him with the plot of La Mordida, a novel composed in 1946-52 and published posthumously in 1996). The Lowry couple then decide to spend the winter of 1946-1947 in Haiti. Marked by new mishaps, this Haitian trip, after which Malcolm falls into a depressive state and must make a new stay in a psychiatric clinic, nevertheless allows him to discover voodoo culture alive in the Caribbean there is a trace of this experience in Lunar Caustic, a long story published posthumously in 1963, and in a major episode of La Mordida.
The last years : from glory to decline (1947-1957)
In 1952, because of the bookstore success of Under the Volcano, the publishing houses Harcourt Brace and then Random House offered Lowry a contract to publish the extensive fictional cycle The Voyage That Never Ends that he has meanwhile started. Throughout the 1950s, Lowry pursued an intense literary activity he composes three novels, The Ordeal of Sigbjørn Wilderness, Dark as the grave where my friend rests (Dark as the Grave’s my Friend’s Ugly) and En route to the island of Gabriola (October Ferry to Gabriola) (these last two books are published posthumously in 1968 and 1970 The Ordeal of Sigbjørn Wilderness remains unpublished to this day). Nevertheless, Lowry is unable to complete any of these manuscripts, leading Random House to suspend his contract in January 1954. Facing serious financial difficulties, victim of health problems of increasing concern caused largely by Alcohol abuse, and haunted by the fear of never succeeding in reproducing the brilliant success of Under the volcano, Lowry ends his life in a semi-wandering: he leaves Dollarton definitively in August 1954 and goes successively to New York, Sicily, London and the Lake District where he stays in the spring of 1957.
He died on June 27 of the same year in the village of Ripe, East Sussex, following an overdose of sleeping pills absorbed intoxicated. The circumstances of his disappearance remain mysterious in view of his self-destructive behavior, the hypothesis of suicide can not be ruled out, and the role played by Margerie at the time of her husband’s death has never been fully elucidated. In any event, the coroner’s inquest, as is customary in the United Kingdom in the event of a suspicious disappearance, has led to an accidental death.
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