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Malcolm Lowry (Clarence Malcolm Lowry) Biography

(1909–57), (Clarence Malcolm Lowry), Ultramarine, Under the Volcano

English novelist, born in New Brighton, Cheshire, the son of a Liverpool cotton broker. After working as a deckhand on a tramp steamer he continued his education at St Catharine's College, Cambridge. These early experiences at sea led to his first novel, Ultramarine (1933); highly experimental in technique, with Conrad Aiken and Joyce as two of several models, this autobiographical work concerns a boy attempting to prove himself in the rough world of a freighter. Subsequently, Lowry led a nomadic life in Spain, Paris, New York, and Hollywood, until settling with his second wife, and later his literary executor, Margerie Bonner, among a community of squatters on Dollarton Beach, Vancouver, in 1940. His second novel, Under the Volcano (1947), which took many years to write and underwent many revisions, is a classic of twentieth-century fiction. Set in Mexico, during the ‘day of the dead’, the novel focuses on Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic former British consul who resembles Lowry himself. Lowry never completed his other major works, which were published posthumously. Also set in Mexico, Dark as the Grave wherein My Friend Is Laid (1968), edited by Douglas Day and Margerie Lowry, is a thinly fictionalized account of Lowry's struggles in writing and publishing Under the Volcano, Lunar Caustic (1968), edited by Earle Birney and Margerie Lowry, was based on the collapse of Lowry's first marriage, and consequent detention as an alcoholic patient. Margerie also edited October Ferry to Gabriola (1970), another unfinished novel. His collection of stories, Hear Us, O Lord, from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961), contains ‘The Forest Path to the Spring’, set in British Columbia, which was intended as a sketch of the Paradiso to the Purgatorio of Under the Volcano. His attachment to British Columbia made many regard him as an honorary Canadian novelist; indeed, he was the posthumous recipient of the Governor-General's Award, Canada, in 1962. Sadly, he and his wife had left Canada in 1954 when they were evicted to make way for a public park. Other posthumous publications include Selected Poems (1962; edited by Earle Birney and Margerie Lowry) and Selected Letters (1965; edited by Harvey Breit and Margerie Lowry). Lowry died ‘of misadventure’ near Lewes in East Sussex. See Douglas Day, Lowry: A Biography (1973).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Earl Lovelace Biography to Madmen and Specialists