"ONE OF THE TOWERING NOVELS OF THE 20TH CENTURY": FIRST EDITION OF MALCOLM LOWRY'S UNDER THE VOLANO
LOWRY, Malcolm. Under the Volcano. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, (1947). Octavo, original cloth, uncut, original dust jacket. $3800.
First edition, first printing, of Lowry's finest novel, one of the 20th century's "few authentic masterpieces."
Hailed as "masterpiece… one of the towering novels of the 20th century," Lowry's tour-de-force is the tragic narrative of the final, desperate day of a former British Consul drinking himself to death in Mexico (New York Times). "As with all tragic heroes (and this novel is genuine tragedy) the Consul sums up the flaws which are latent or actual in all of us: like Marlowe's Faustus, he excites pity and terror… By the end of the century Under the Volcano may be seen as one of its few authentic masterpieces" (Burgess, 99 Novels, 38). Yet the novel was nearly refused publication. After publisher Jonathan Cape rejected a fourth draft in 1945, Lowry wrote a long defense of it, arguing that the book's seeming incoherence was part of its poetic quality, and that passages of drug-induced narration by the Consul symbolized "the universal drunkenness of mankind during the war, and during the period immediately preceding it." Impressed, Cape agreed to publish the novel with no changes, to great critical success. "To describe his perennial theme, Lowry once borrowed the words of the critic Edmund Wilson: 'the forces in man which cause him to be terrified of himself'" (Lacayo, Time: All Time 100 Novels). Basis for the John Huston film with Albert Finney (who was nominated for an Oscar). First edition, first printing with no edition or printings on copyright page. First-issue dust jacket with $3.00 on front flap; "Advance critical acclaim" and four advance reviews from Alfred Kazan, Robert Penn Warren, Conrad Aiken and Stephen Spender on back panel. Published the same year as the English edition, no priority established.
Book with just a few instances of marginal ink stains, bright dust jacket with two-inch closed tear to front spine head fold, a bit of shallow chipping to spine head. A near-fine copy, unusual in such condition.