FUNDAÇÃO MALCOLM LOWRY

FUNDAÇÃO MALCOLM LOWRY

Este blogue foi criado com o intuito de unir a comunidade lowryana de todo o mundo, a fim de trocar ideias e informação sobre o autor, promover a organização de conferências, colóquios e outras actividades relacionadas com a promoção da sua obra. Este é o primeiro sítio trilingue feito no México sobre o tema. Cuernavaca, México.


Malcolm Lowry Foundation


This blog was created to comunicate all lowry scholars, fans and enthusiastics from around the world in order to promote the interchange of materials and information about the writer as well as organize events such as lectures, colloquiums and other activities related to the work of the author. Cuernavaca, Mexico.


FONDATION MALCOLM LOWRY

Ce blog a été crée dans le but de rapprocher la communauté lowryenne du monde entier afin de pouvoir échanger des idées et des informations sur l'auteur ainsi que promouvoir et organiser des conférences, colloques et autres activités en relation avec son oeuvre. Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexique.

lunes, 25 de abril de 2011

The volcano is dark

The volcano is dark, and suddenly thunder
Engulfs the haciendas.
In this darkness, I think of men in the act of procreating,
Winged, stooping, Kneeling, sitting down, standing up,
sprawling,
Millions of trillions of billions of men moaning,
And the hand of the eternal woman flung aside.
I see their organ frozen into a gigantic rock,
Shattered now...
And the cries which might be the groans of the dying
Or the groans of love.

Malcolm Lowry



Le volcan est noir et soudain
le tonnerre englobe les haciendas.
Dans cette obscurité,
je pense aux hommes qui sont en train de procréer,
ailés, voûtés, à genoux, assis, debout, allongés,
Des millions de trillions de billions d'hommes gémissant,
Tandis que la main de la femme éternelle les balaye.
Je vois leur organe congelé en une roche gigantesque,
pulvérisée maintenant...
Et ces cris qui pourraient être les plaintes des moribonds ou
les gémissements de l'amour.

Malcolm Lowry



Está negro el volcán, y un trueno engulle
las haciendas de pronto.
En esta oscuridad pienso en hombres
que viven el acto de la procreación:
agachados, de pie, sentados,
de rodillas, extendidos, alados,
cientos de miles de millones de hombres gimiendo
mientras cae a un lado la mano de la mujer eterna.
Miro sus órganos congelados
desmoronándose en una roca gigantesca.
Y esos lamentos que son
no sé si quejas de los moribundos
o los gemidos del amor...

Malcolm Lowry


Está negro o vulcão e de repente um trovão submerge as haciendas.
Nesta escuridão penso nos homens que vivem o acto da procriação.
Com asas, inclinados, de joelhos, sentados, de pé, estatelados.
Milhões de triliões de biliões de homens gemendo, enquanto a seu lado cai a mão da mulher eterna.
Observo os seus órgãos congelados numa rocha gigantesca
Desmoronando-se agora…
E os gritos podem ser queixas de moribundos ou gemidos de amor.

Malcolm Lowry



La versión en francés de "The volcano is dark" es de Dany Hurpin.
La versión en español, es de Félix García, lo mismo que las fotografías del Popocatépetl.
La versión en portugués de "The volcano is dark" es de Marcelo Teixeira.

domingo, 24 de abril de 2011

EM REDOR DE «DEBAIXO DO VULCÃO»

No próximo dia 28, Malcolm Lowry faria 100 anos. Em vida publicou apenas duas obras, mas isso não impede que este autor inglês seja hoje considerado um dos maiores escritores do século vinte e que «Debaixo do Vulcão», a sua obra maior, figure nas mais variadas listas de leituras obrigatórias – casos da revista «Time», do jornal «Le Monde» ou da Modern Library. Mas o que tem de diferente «Debaixo do Vulcão»? A complexidade e a descrição prodigiosa dos sentimentos e dos estados de alma? A amplitude e erudição das referências? A capacidade metafórica? A sistemática recusa de publicação por parte dos editores? A categorização do desespero? A força do seu simbolismo? Os excessos e os delírios do cônsul? O misticismo da sua arquitectura narrativa? Tudo isso e muito, muito mais, servido por uma história aparentemente simples: certa manhã, Yvonne regressa a Quauhnahuac para tentar a reconciliação com Geoffrey Firmin, ex-cônsul inglês naquela cidade mexicana, encontrando o marido dominado pelo consumo excessivo de álcool, num processo de autodestruição acelerada. Doze horas depois, o casal deixou de pertencer ao mundo dos vivos; a Literatura ganha uma bela história de amor, intensa, trágica e complexa. Imortal. A obra adquiriu uma veneração pouco comum, cedendo o nome a festivais de música, bares e tabernas, blogues e páginas pessoais na internet, “workshops” de escrita criativa ou cooperativas de apicultores, constituindo um grupo de admiradores cuja devoção se manifesta de múltiplas formas.

Em Portugal, «Debaixo do Vulcão» foi publicado em 1965 (dezoito anos depois da sua edição nos Estados Unidos e em Inglaterra) e não suscitou interesse senão num círculo restrito de leitores, que o comentavam em tertúlias. Manuel Gusmão é seu admirador confesso, também Baptista-Bastos, que o recebeu das mãos de Carlos de Oliveira, autor que lhe presta homenagem com o poema “Debaixo do Vulcão”, incluído no livro «Micropaisagem», em 1968. Também outros poetas lhe dedicam atenção: Herberto Helder “muda” alguns poemas para português, Al Berto dedica a Lowry cinco “cartas inúteis” no «Diário de Notícias» de 13 de Janeiro de 1985 e evocá-lo-á, anos mais tarde, em «O Anjo Mudo». Uma década depois, José Agostinho Baptista, poeta e tradutor e admirador de Malcolm Lowry, publica «Debaixo do Azul sobre o Vulcão», texto intenso que percorre sentimentalmente toda a geografia do México, sobre a qual vai pairando a sombra dos ambientes e das personagens de «Debaixo do Vulcão». Em 2000, Manuel de Freitas rende homenagem com a publicação de «Todos contentes e eu também» (nome de uma taberna em Tomalín que aparece no final do capítulo IX do livro de Lowry), que, além da epígrafe de abertura, contém os poemas “El Farolito”, o mais famoso antro do livro, e “Gusano Rojo”, uma das inúmeras bebidas que Geoffrey Firmin ingere ao longo da obra. O tributo continuaria no ano seguinte com “Gloomy Sunday” e “Whiskey on a Sunday”, do seu novo livro – «Os Paraísos Artificiais». No México, país onde «Debaixo do Vulcão» é particularmente apreciado, recebeu a aclamação de Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes e José Emilio Pacheco, que venceu em 1991 do Prémio de Ensaio Malcolm Lowry e não resistiu a traduzir poemas do autor inglês. Neste país, Roberto Bolaño escreveu «Os Detectives Selvagens», que leva uma epígrafe do livro de Lowry. “A frase nunca dita”, conto de Alicia Giménez Bartlett incluído na colectânea «O teu nome flutuando num adeus», publicado em Portugal no ano passado, assenta a história num casal que segue os passos de Lowry até Cuernavaca em demanda do El Farolito, que, ao contrário do que se passa na narrativa, nunca existiu naquela cidade mas em Oaxaca. Jean-Paul Sartre também admirava a obra, tal como o seu compatriota Olivier Rolin, que passou há poucas semanas por Portugal antes de regressar a França para participar num colóquio evocativo do centenário de Malcolm Lowry. O irmão, Jean Rolin, publicou recentemente «Un Chien Mort Après Lui», título retirado da última frase de «Debaixo do Vulcão». Uma plena compreensão desta obra não é possível sem a leitura de «A Companion to Under the Volcano». Para a escrever, um dos autores, o neo-zelandês Chris Ackerley, viveu alguns meses em Cuernavaca a reconstituir os passos de Malcolm Lowry.

A adaptação do livro para a Sétima Arte sempre constituiu uma tentação e dava, por si… um filme. Muitos realizadores a tentaram, com o apoio de reconhecidos escritores. Guillermo Cabrera Infante escreveu um primeiro guião para o realizador Joseph Losey, prontamente recusado por ter assinado com o pseudónimo G. Caín, parecido em demasia a Michael Caine, considerado por Losey actor menor. Sorte diferente não tiveram os guiões de Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes e Luis Buñuel (que considerava não ser provável filmar o que vai na alma de uma pessoa) ou os realizadores Jules Dassin e Ken Russell. Nos bastidores, actores como Jack Nicholson, Richard Burton ou Robert Shaw não escondiam a sua vontade de representar o papel de Geoffrey Firmin. Por fim, John Huston, que analisara já inúmeros guiões, teve conhecimento de que Guy Gallo, um jovem estudante de Yale que nunca trabalhara em cinema, lograra fazer em apenas sete dias o que ninguém conseguira em 30 anos. Apaixonado pelo México, John Huston conhecera Lowry em Cuernavaca e ocuparia durante as filmagens a casa que o escritor alugara, hoje transformada no Hotel Bajo el volcán, na Calle Humboldt, a célebre Nicaragua do livro. Com Albert Finney e Jacqueline Bisset nos principais papéis, «Debaixo do Vulcão» foi filmado no México e chegou às salas de cinema 1984. Filme mal-amado pelos admiradores do livro, é considerada, apesar da brilhante interpretação de Finney, uma das obras menores de John Huston, autor dos aclamados «O Tesouro da Sierra Madre» ou «A Noite da Iguana». Por autorizar a adaptação, Margerie Bonner, viúva de Malcolm Lowry, recebeu 350 mil dólares. «Mezcal», do mexicano Ignacio Ortiz, não constitui uma adaptação da obra de Lowry, mas dela recebe a inspiração para criar uma história sobre um grupo de pessoas perseguidas pela culpa, pelo desamor e pelo desejo de vingança, que se encontram casualmente um dia no bar El Farolito, em Parián, para com a ajuda de mescal aliviar a dor que transportam. Nos Ariel Awards do México, «Mezcal» foi galardoado com 6 prémios, incluindo o de melhor filme, tendo sido também bastante condecorado em festivais internacionais.

A obra-prima de Malcolm Lowry motivou igualmente a realização de vários documentários. Em 1976, o National Film Board of Canada, país onde Malcolm Lowry viveu alguns anos, produziu «Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry». Realizado por Donald Brittain e John Kramer, tem a participação de Richard Burton e ganharia seis prémios naquele país (incluindo o de melhor documentário) e vários no estrangeiro. Em 1988, Óscar Menéndez realizou «Malcolm Lowry en México», documentário que recupera os passos do escritor naquele país. Trabalho intenso, resgata uma Cuernavaca paradisíaca e infernal e reinventa o ambiente que inspirou «Debaixo do Vulcão». Este documentário foi galardoado com o Prémio de Melhor Fotografia e Investigação Literária da Primeira Bienal de Vídeo.

Em 1981, a canadiana Listen for Pleasure edita em duas cassetes «Debaixo do Vulcão», com narração do actor inglês Christopher Cazenove. A partir de Abril de 2009, é editada uma nova versão em MP3, com duas horas e cinquenta e quatro minutos. Em Março de 1988, a DH Audio edita em 3 audiocassetes uma versão narrada por Nick Ullett, actor inglês naturalizado norte-americano que integrara, entre outros, o elenco de «Um vagabundo na alta-roda». Com a duração de três horas e 45 minutos, a Phoenix Audio editaria em 1997 a mesma gravação em versão “audiobook”. Já em 2009, A Blackstone associa-se também às comemorações do centenário do escritor editando uma versão de John Lee, que antes dera voz a obras de Jack London e de Kazuo Ishiguro.

A música também prestou homenagem ao livro de Malcolm Lowry. Depois de abandonar os Cream (que fundara em 1966 com Eric Clapton), Jack Bruce inicia em 1971 uma carreira a solo com o álbum «Harmony Row». Uma das faixas, “The Consul at sunset”, é inspirada na personagem de Geoffrey Firmin. O multi-instrumentista francês Bernard Lubat (companhia por diversas vezes de Jean-Luc Ponty ou Stan Getz), edita em 1974 «Au Bon Livre (ode to Malcolm Lowry)». Na Primavera de 1998, em Berlim, um grupo seduzia os clubes nocturnos. Utilizando instrumentos pouco convencionais, a banda Malcolm Lowry apostava numa sonoridade melancólica, servida por uma voz profunda que falava de descaracterização da vida urbana, da efemeridade das relações da solidão e do amor não correspondido. Em Agosto do ano seguinte gravaria um único disco antes de se dissolver. O conhecido interesse de Malcolm Lowry pela música e, em particular, pelo jazz levou um grupo de músicos dirigidos por Graham Collier a associarem-se e a editarem um disco de homenagem. Surgiu, assim, em 1978 o duplo LP «The Day of the Dead». Por detrás das composições musicais, palavras de diversas obras do autor inglês dão corpo a um disco original, levando Raúl Ortiz y Ortiz, aclamado tradutor de «Debaixo do Vulcão» para espanhol, a dizer que “não só capta e expressa fielmente uma interpretação pessoal dos conflitos existenciais da obra, como evoca também o paradoxo entre a alegria e a tristeza do Dia dos Mortos no meu país”. Em 2001 foi comercializada uma versão em CD.

Em 1947, Fletcher Markle, actor e realizador (e adaptador não reconhecido de «A Dama de Xangai», de Orson Welles), apresentou na CBS Radio uma adaptação radiofónica de «Debaixo do Vulcão» e Graham Collier (que dirigira «The Day of the Dead») faria o mesmo para uma versão de teatro radiofónico («Hi-Fi Theatre»). Durante noventa minutos, a BBC transmitiu a peça no programa «Monday Play», no dia 12 de Março de 1979. Mais recentemente, a companhia de Laurent Gutmann, director francês de teatro (e encenador de peças de escritores como Genet, Duras, Gorki ou Brecht) levou à cena uma nova adaptação – “Je Suis Tombé”.

Também o campo da pintura tem recebido inspiração. No México, particularmente, tem entusiasmado artistas a transpor para a tela a frustrada relação do cônsul com Yvonne Firmin. Alberto Gironella, pintor e poeta de origem catalã que dedicou parte da obra a interpretar liricamente a simbologia do álcool, do amor e da loucura do romance, é o autor do mural “El Viacrucis del Cónsul”, que a última edição mexicana de «Debaixo do Vulcão» tem na capa. Recentemente, foi inaugurada a Sala Alberto Gironella no Jardim Borda, em Cuernavaca, que receberá trabalhos do pintor inspirados naquela obra. Na mesma cidade, em 2006, artistas de vários países estiveram presentes na “Quauhnauhuac – The Straight Line is a Utopia”, frase retirada do livro que deu nome à exposição. O imaginário do livro inspirou também o artista Daniel Lezama a pintar “La Muerte de Empédocles”. Realizado para o restaurante Glória, antiga “pulqueria” na Cidade do México, o quadro reconstitui um ambiente de taberna, do qual sobressaem Mayahuel (deusa asteca do agave, a partir do qual são produzidos o mescal e o “tequila”) e um homem sentado no chão – Phil Kelly, reconhecido pintor irlandês que trocou a pátria pelo México e que, como Lowry, partilhava o gosto pelas bebidas mexicanas, mas também Empédocles/Geoffrey Firmin, o malogrado cônsul. Ao fundo, um vulcão, o Etna, onde o filósofo grego se suicidou, mas também, naturalmente, o Popocatépetl, de «Debaixo do Vulcão».

A viver no México há mais de quarenta anos, o holandês Bob Schalkwijk prolonga a tradição dos fotógrafos que sentiram o apelo da paisagem física e humana daquele país. O seu trabalho «El volcán de Quauhnahuac», que recria o ambiente em que decorre «Debaixo do Vulcão», juntou-se aos realizados sobre os índios tarahumaras ou lacandones, que lhe trouxeram renome internacional.

Não podia faltar, entre os imensos admiradores da obra, quem considerasse que a trágica história de Geoffrey e Yvonne tenha motivado demasiada “inspiração” a outros escritores. O colombiano Ivan Garcia Palacios sustenta que o livro de Lowry serviu de inspiração aos «Cem Anos de Solidão», de Gabriel García Márquez. No seu blogue dedicado ao assunto, expõe os argumentos, comparando excertos das duas obras, analisando cuidadosamente entrevistas do compatriota, ligando discursos e depoimentos de Carlos Fuentes, comparando datas e a coincidência de alguns acontecimentos. A prova de que uma admiração desmedida se sobrepõe a uma análise lúcida ou a verdade finalmente descoberta e revelada? Analise (e decida) o leitor por si próprio em http://geneticaliteraria.blogspot.com.

«Debaixo do Vulcão» continua, 62 anos após a sua publicação, a reunir fiéis, a incentivar estudos, a fascinar novos leitores. Quando o livro foi editado em Espanha, Jorge Semprun afirmou ser necessário obrigar os que não conhecem o romance a lê-lo e relê-lo e Cabrera Infante defendeu que, por muitos leitores que tenha, nunca terá bastantes. O centenário de Malcolm Lowry constitui um pretexto renovado para ler, ou reler, a trágica história de Geoffrey Firmin e de Yvonne. Também por essa razão, no próximo dia 28 de Julho, Malcolm Lowry, mais do que outro escritor, merece um brinde. “Salud, Malcolm!”

Marcelo Teixeira, Lisboa, 2009





AL REDEDOR DE BAJO EL VOLCÁN

El próximo 28, Malcolm Lowry cumpliría cien años. En vida publicó solamente dos obras, pero eso no impide que este autor inglés sea hoy considerado uno de los mayores escritores del siglo XX y que Bajo el volcán, su obra mayor, figure entre las más variadas listas de lecturas obligatorias, como es el caso de la revista Time, el periódico Le Monde y la Modern Library. Ahora bien, ¿qué tiene de diferente Bajo el volcán? ¿La complejidad y la descripción prodigiosa de las sensaciones y de los estados del alma? ¿La amplitud y la erudición de las referencias? ¿La capacidad metafórica? ¿La denegación sistemática de la publicación por parte de los editores? ¿La categorización de la desesperación? ¿La fuerza de su simbolismo? ¿Los excesos y los delirios del Cónsul? ¿El misticismo de su arquitectura narrativa? Todo eso y mucho, mucho más, presentado en una historia aparentemente simple: cierta mañana Yvonne regresa a Quauhnáhuac para tratar de reconciliarse con Geoffrey Firmin, exCónsul inglés en aquella ciudad mexicana, en un proceso de autodestrucción acelerada. Doce horas después, ambos dejaron de pertenecer al mundo de los vivos. La literatura gana una bella historia de amor, intensa, trágica y compleja. Inmortal. La obra adquirió una veneración poco común, cediendo nombre a festivales de música, cantinas y tabernas, blogs y páginas de Internet, workshops de escritura creativa o cooperativas de apicultores, constituyendo un grupo de admiradores cuya devoción se expresa de múltiples formas.

En Portugal, Bajo el volcán fue publicada en 1965 (dieciocho años después de su edición en Estados Unidos e Inglaterra), y no suscitó interés sino en un círculo restringido de lectores que lo comentaban en tertulias. Manuel Gusmão es su admirador confeso, también Baptista-Bastos, que recibió la novela de manos de Carlos de Oliveira, autor que le brinda un homenaje con el poema “Debaixo do Vulcão”, incluido en el libro Micropaisagem, en 1968. También otros poetas le dedican atención: Herberto Helder traduce algunos poemas de Lowry al portugués, Al Berto dedica a Lowry cinco “cartas inúteis” en el Diário de Notícias del 13 de enero de 1985 y lo evocará, años más tarde, en O Anjo Mudo. Una década después, José Agostinho Baptista, poeta y traductor y admirador de Malcolm Lowry, publica Debaixo do Azul sobre o Vulcão, texto intenso que cubre sentimentalmente toda la geografía de México, sobre la cual va pasando la sombra y los ambientes de los personajes de Bajo el volcán. En el 2000, Manuel de Freitas le rinde homenaje con la publicación de Todos contentes e eu também (nombre de una cantina de Tomalín que aparece al final del capítulo IX de libro de Lowry), eso, además del epígrafe, contiene los poemas “El Fartolito”, la cantina más famosa del libro, y “Gusano Rojo”, una de las innumerables bebidas que Geoffrey Firmin bebe a lo largo del libro. El tributo continuaría al año siguiente con “Gloomy Sunday” y “Whiskey on a Sunday”, de su nuevo libro: Os Paraísos Artificiais. En México, país donde Bajo el volcán es particularmente apreciado, recibió la aclamación de Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes y José Emilio Pacheco, que ganó, en 1991, el Premio de Ensayo Malcolm Lowry, y no se resistió a traducir algunos poemas del autor inglés. En México, Roberto Bolaño escribió Los detectives salvajes, que lleva un epígrafe de Lowry. “A frase nunca dita”, cuento de Alicia Giménez Bartlett incluido en el colectivo O teu nome flutuando num adeus, publicado en Portugal el año pasado, cuenta la historia de un personaje que sigue los pasos de Lowry en Cuernavaca buscando El Farolito, que, al contrario de lo que pasa en la novela, nunca existió allí, pero sí en Oaxaca. Jean-Paul Sartre también admiraba la obra, como su compatriota Olivier Rolin, que pasó hace pocas semanas por Portugal en su regreso a Francia para participar en el coloquio evocativo del centenario de Malcolm Lowry. Su hermano Jean Rolin publicó recientemente Un Chien Mort Après Lui, título tomado de la última frase de Bajo el volcán. Una comprensión completa de esta obra es imposible sin la lectura de A Companion to Under the Volcano. Para escribirlo, el autor, el neo-zelandés Chris Ackerley, vivió algunos meses en Cuernavaca a fin de reconstruir los pasos de Malcolm Lowry.

La adaptación del libro al séptimo arte constituyó siempre una tentación y daba por sí mismo para una película. Muchos realizadores lo habían intentado, con la ayuda de reconocidos escritores. Guillermo Cabrera Infante escribió un guión para el realizador Joseph Losey, que fue rechazado por tener como pseudónimo G. Caín, muy parecido a Michael Caine, quien era considerado por Losey un actor menor. No tuvieron mejor suerte los guiones de Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes y Luis Buñuel (quien consideraba imposible filmar lo que está en el alma de una persona) o de los realizadores Jules Dassin y Ken Russell. Tras bambalinas, actores como Jack Nicholson, Richard Burton o Robert Shaw, no escondían su deseo de representar el papel de Geoffrey Firmin. Por fin, John Huston, que estudiara innumerables guiones, supo que Guy Gallo, un joven estudiante de Yale que nunca había trabajado en el cine, había logrado hacer en siete días lo que nadie consiguió en 30 años. Apasionado por México, John Huston conocería a Lowry en Cuernavaca y ocuparía, durante las filmaciones, la casa que el escritor alquilara, hoy transformada en “Hotel Bajo el Volcán” en la calle Humboldt, la célebre Nicaragua del libro. Con Albert Finney y Jacqueline Bisset en los papeles principales, Bajo el volcán fue filmado en México y llegó a las salas de cine en 1984. Película desdeñada por los admiradores del libro, es considerada, a pesar de la excelente actuación de Finney, una de las obras menores de John Huston, autor de las reconocidas cintas: El tesoro de la sierra madre y La noche de la iguana. Por autorizar la adaptación, Margerie Bonner, la viuda de Malcolm Lowry, recibió 350 mil dólares. Mezcal, del mexicano Ignacio Ortiz, no es una adaptación de la obra de Lowry, pero recibe de ella la inspiración de hacer una historia sobre un grupo de personas que perseguidas por la culpa, por el desamor y el deseo de venganza, se encuentran casualmente un día en el bar El Farolito, en Parián, para aliviar su dolor con la ayuda del mezcal. En los Premios Ariel de México, Mezcal, recibió seis premios, incluido “mejor filme”, y también fue condecorado en varios festivales internacionales.

La obra maestra de Malcolm Lowry también motivó la realización de varios documentales. En 1976, la National Film Board of Canada, país donde Malcolm Lowry vivió algunos años, produjo Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry. Realizado por Donald Brittain y John Kramer, con la participación de Richard Burton, ganaría seis premios en aquel país (incluido el de “mejor documental”) y varios en el extranjero. En 1988, Óscar Menéndez realizó Malcolm Lowry en México, documental que recupera los pasos del escritor en aquel país. Trabajo intenso, rescata una Cuernavaca paradisíaca e infernal, y reinventa el ambiente que inspiró Bajo el volcán. Este documental fue galardonado con el premio a la mejor fotografía e investigación literaria en la Primera Bienal de Video.

En 1981, la canadiense Listen for Pleasure, editó Bajo el volcán en dos casetes, con la voz del actor inglés Christopher Cazenove. A partir de abril de 2009, fue editada una nueva versión en MP3, con dos horas cincuenta y cuatro minutos de duración. En marzo de 1988, DH Audio edita en tres casetes una versión narrada por Nick Ullett, actor inglés naturalizado norteamericano que integró, entre otros, el elenco de “Um vagabundo na alta-roda”. Con duración de tres horas cuarenta y cinco minutos, Phoenix Audio editaría en 1997 la misma grabación en versión audiobook. En 2009, Blackstone se asocia a las conmemoraciones del centenario del escritor, editando una versión de John Lee, que antes dio voz a las obras de Jack London y de Kasuo Ishiguro.

La música también brindó homenaje al libro de Malcolm Lowry. Después de abandonar Cream (que fundó en 1966 con Eric Clapton), Jack Bruce inició en 1971 una carrera de solista con el álbum Harmony Row. Una de sus piezas, “The Consul at sunset”, está inspirada en el personaje de Geoffrey Firmin. El multiinstrumentista francés Bernard Lubat (varias veces compañero de Jean-Luc Ponty en Stan Getz), editó en 1974 Au Bon Livre (ode to Malcolm Lowry). En la primavera de 1998, en Berlín, un grupo sedujo los clubs nocturnos. Utilizando instrumentos poco convencionales, la banda Malcolm Lowry apostaba a una sonoridad melancólica, usando una voz profunda que hablaba de la despersonalización de la vida urbana, de lo efímero de las relaciones, de la soledad y del amor no correspondido. En agosto del año siguiente grabaría un único disco antes de desintegrarse. El sabido interés de Malcolm Lowry por la música y, en particular, por el jazz llevó a un grupo de músicos dirigidos por Graham Collier a asociarse y a editar un disco de homenaje. Surgió así, en 1978, el LP doble The Day of the Dead. Por atrás de las composiciones musicales, palabras de diversas obras del autor ingles dan cuerpo a un disco original, llevando a Raúl Ortiz y Ortiz, aclamado traductor de Bajo el volcán al español, a decir que “no sólo capta y expresa fielmente una interpretación personal de los conflictos existenciales de la obra, evoca también la paradoja entre la alegría y la tristeza del Día de Muertos en mi país”. En 2001 fue comercializada una versión en CD.

En 1947, Fletcher Markle, actor y realizador (y adaptador no reconocido de A Dama de Xangai, de Orson Welles), presentó en CBS Radio una adaptación radiofónica de Bajo el volcán y Graham Collier (que dirigía «The Day of the Dead») habría lo mismo para una versión de teatro radiofónico («Hi-Fi Theatre»). Durante noventa minutos, la BBC transmitió la pieza en el programa «Monday Play», el día 12 de marzo de 1979. Más recientemente, la compañía de Laurent Gutmann, director francés de teatro (y escenificador de piezas de escritores como Genet, Duras, Gorki o Brecht) llevó a escena una nueva adaptación: “Je Suis Tombé”.

El campo de la pintura también ha recibido su inspiración. En México, particularmente, hay artistas entusiasmados por transportar a la tela la frustrada relación del Cónsul con Yvonne Firmin. Alberto Gironella, pintor y poeta de origen catalán, dedicó parte de su obra a interpretar líricamente la simbología del alcohol, del amor y de la locura del romance, es el autor del mural “El Viacrucis del Cónsul”, que la última edición mexicana de Bajo el volcán tiene en la portada. Recientemente fue inaugurada la sala Alberto Gironella en el Jardín Borda, en Cuernavaca, que recibirá trabajos del pintor inspirados en aquella obra. En esa misma ciudad, en 2006, artistas de varios países estuvieron presentes en “Quauhnáuhuac – The Straight Line is a Utopia”, frase tomada del libro que dio nombre a la exposición. El imaginario del libro inspiró también a Daniel Lezama a pintar “La Muerte de Empédocles”. Realizado para el restaurante Gloria, antigua “pulquería” de la Ciudad de México, el cuadro recrea un ambiente de cantina donde sobresalen Mayahuel (diosa azteca del agave, a partir del cual se producen el mezcal y el tequila) y un hombre sentado en el suelo, Phil Kelly, reconocido pintor irlandés que cambió su patria por México y que, como Lowry, participaba del gusto por las bebidas mexicanas, y también Empédocles/Geoffrey Firmin, el Cónsul maltratado. En el fondo, un volcán, el Etna, donde el filósofo griego se suicidó, pero también, naturalmente, el Popocatepetl de Bajo el volcán.

Al vivir en México por más de cuarenta años, el holandés Bob Schalkwijk, continúa con la tradición de los fotógrafos que sentirán el peso del paisaje físico y humano de aquel país. Su trabajo, «El volcán de Quauhnáhuac», recrea el ambiente en que transcurre Bajo el volcán, uniendo sus trabajos sobre los indios tarahumaras y los lacandones, que le dieron renombre internacional.

No podría faltar, entre los extraordinarios admiradores de la obra, quien considerase que la trágica historia de Geoffrey e Yvonne ha inspirado “exageradamente” a algunos escritores. El colombiano Iván García Palacios sostiene que el libro de Lowry sirvió de inspiración a Cien años de soledad de Gabriel García Márquez. En su blog dedicado al tema, expone los argumentos, comparando párrafos de las dos obras, analizando cuidadosamente las entrevistas de su compatriota, ligando discursos y declaraciones de Carlos Fuentes y comparando datos y coincidencias de algunos acontecimientos. ¿Prueba eso que una admiración desmedida se sobrepone al análisis lúcido o es finalmente una verdad descubierta y revelada? Estudie (y decida) el lector por sí mismo en: http://geneticaliteraria.blogspot.com.

Bajo el volcán continúa, 62 años después de su publicación, juntando fieles, incentivando estudios, fascinando a nuevos lectores. Cuando el libro fue editado en España, Jorge Semprun afirmó que era necesario obligar a quienes no conocen el romance, a leerlo y releerlo y Cabrera Infante dijo que por muchos lectores que tenga, nunca tendrá bastantes. El centenario de Malcolm Lowry constituye un pretexto renovado para leer o releer la trágica historia de Geoffrey Firmin y de Yvonne. También por esa razón el próximo día 28 de julio, Malcolm Lowry, más que ningún otro escritor, merece un brindis. “¡Salud, Malcolm!”

Marcelo Teixeira, Lisboa, 2009
Traducción de Félix García

Foul play at White Cottage




Dear Senor Rebollo:

I am happy to send you a copy (attached) of my article about the last days of Malcolm Lowry from the TLS.

I think the reason that Lowry is not better know and respected in England is that a lot of people think he was a Canadian or even an American writer, and his output was relatively limited. I also suspect that Mexicans have better literary taste than the British.

I know of no celebration for the 60th anniversary of 'The Volcano' in this country. More's the pity.

Please give my regards to all my friends in Mexico City - and, of course, to yourself.

Gordon Bowker





Foul play at White Cottage

Recent reports throw fresh light on the death of Malcolm Lowry.

Mystery has always surrounded the death in 1957 of Malcolm Lowry, author of Under the Volcano and a clutch of strangely inspired novels and short stories. He has been variously said to have committed suicide or died of alcoholism. Rumour and suspicion have only deepened the mystery, and it has even been alleged that foul play could have been involved, suspicion falling on Lowry's widow, Margerie. Now, newly released police and coroner's reports throw fresh light on the death of one of England's least acknowledged literary geniuses.

In July 1955, just short of his forty-sixth birthday, Lowry came back to England after living abroad for twenty years, mostly in North America. He had vowed never to return, but, faced with his illness and lack of funds, Margerie had brought him back to benefit from treatment on the National Health Service (still a relative novelty, having been founded in 1948). By August 1956, after hospital therapy, Lowry seemed to be cured of the alcohol-induced psychosis from which he was suffering on arrival, but less than a year later, he was found dead in the strangest of circumstances in a small Sussex village.

Lowry, who had been an alcoholic at least since his undergraduate days at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, published his first novel, Ultramarine, in 1933.

The following year he eloped with an American, Jan Gabrial, and two years later landed up in the psychiatric ward of New York's Bellevue Hospital - the experience which inspired his brilliant surrealist novella, Lunar Caustic. Two years in Mexico with Jan, where he began Under the Volcano, led to more drinking, breakdown and imprisonment, and ended with the collapse of his marriage. Finally, under threat of deportation, he returned to the United States.

In Hollywood, he met Margerie Bonner, a former silent film actress. They married in Canada at the end of 1940, following Lowry's divorce from Jan. In a squatter's shack on the edge of the forest on Burrard Inlet, near Vancouver, for Lowry a paradisal setting, he completed Under the Volcano. In February 1947 it was published in New York to great critical acclaim, being greeted as a work of genius and becoming a best-seller. (By contrast, when it appeared that September in England it received a lukewarm reception and was soon remaindered.) In 1950, a grandiose plan (with the working title "The Voyage that Never Ends") to incorporate all Lowry's work in a single edition was commissioned by Harcourt Brace, but after two years the project stalled, and Lowry became entangled in the novel October Ferry to Gabriola, which his publisher rejected. With his contract terminated and the Lowrys' shack scheduled for demolition, Margerie decided, much against Malcolm's wishes, to uproot him and move to Sicily.

On several occasions, away from his Canadian paradise (in Mexico, Haiti and Europe), he had taken to the bottle and become violent. On an earlier trip to Italy he had twice attempted to strangle Margerie and she had tried, unsuccessfully, to have him committed to a Swiss asylum. Now he again became unbalanced and menacing.

The first doctor they saw in London was horrified when Margerie suggested a lobotomy. Malcolm was then given aversion therapy for alcoholism at Wimbledon's Atkinson Morley Clinic, where he told the consultant psychiatrist, Michael Raymond, that either he would murder Margerie or she would murder him.

Raymond concluded that Lowry's problem was the folie a deux in which the couple were trapped, but Margerie refused to leave him, even temporarily, and, after his discharge, they moved into the White Cottage at Ripe in Sussex. There, Malcolm began writing again, seemingly happy in this remote English village, though locals considered him weird - especially after he became violent in the local pub and was barred.

Margerie had taken a fancy to the recently-widowed Lord Peter Churchill. On one occasion, she and Churchill sat drinking gin at the cottage, assuring Malcolm that he was doing the right thing in abstaining. Sickened by their hypocrisy, he promptly fell off the wagon and was soon back with Dr Raymond, having more aversion therapy to which again he seemed to respond. But Raymond was appalled when he broke down after Margerie told him that if he did not recover soon she would abandon him.

Eventually, he was discharged and returned to Ripe, only occasionally attending Raymond's out-patient's clinic in Knightsbridge over the ensuing months. He had published very little for ten years and was still bogged down in October Ferry, a novel that seemed to be stifling his creativity. There was some good news, however - the film rights of Under the Volcano sold and a paperback was due in America. Then, on June 26, 1957, after a two-week holiday in the Lake District, the couple spent the evening at a pub in nearby Chalvington, returning to their cottage to listen to a concert on the radio. According to Margerie, Lowry, despite her protests, came away with a bottle of gin.

In the past, we have had only her inconsistent and sometimes contradictory accounts of what happened next. The official papers now reveal even more inconsistencies in Margerie's versions of events. The story as she told it to Lowry's closest friend went as follows:

Up in their bedroom they drank gin and orange while listening to the concert.

Afterwards she went downstairs to make supper and when she returned Malcolm, still swigging gin, had the radio on full-blast.

Out of consideration for their elderly neighbour, Winnie Mason, Margerie turned down the volume. Malcolm promptly turned it back up again, so she snatched the gin bottle, dashing it against the bedroom fireplace. He then picked up the broken bottle and attacked her. At this, she fled, taking shelter with Mrs Mason next door. From time to time, she told Lowry's first biographer, Douglas Day (Malcolm Lowry: A biography, 1973), she had gone to see if the light was on in the bedroom. It was, and she assumed that Malcolm was working late. Finally, she had taken a sodium amytal pill and slept on Mrs Mason's couch.

Returning to the cottage next morning, she found Lowry dead on the bedroom floor and immediately summoned Mrs Mason. This being a mysterious death, the police were called. An empty bottle of barbiturate tablets prescribed for Margerie was found hidden in a drawer full of her clothes in a spare bedroom.

What now emerges is that she was detained on suspicion but released after questioning. (It may be, as Lowry's friends James Stern and Arthur Calder Marshall thought, that the Sussex police were nervous about pursuing the matter just two months after the failure of their case against Dr Bodkin Adams, the Eastbourne General Practitioner accused of murdering an elderly patient for gain - foreshadowing by forty-five years the Harold Shipman case.) According to the papers released by the East Sussex coroner, the police, who arrived at 10.30am on June 27, found Lowry lying on his back alongside the bed. A broken wooden tray and glass dish lay under his right arm. Food was on the floor, splinters of glass were on his chest, one chair in the room was upturned and another, completely smashed, lay close to the fireplace. A broken gin bottle and broken orange squash bottle were found at the foot of the bed. On a bedside table there was an array of bottles containing tablets.

Margerie told the police that one bottle, containing around twenty of her sodium amytal sleeping pills, was missing, but after a search no bottle was found. In her statement, she said she knew that Lowry had been an alcoholic long before she married him, and although he had been treated for the condition, he had been discharged the previous year as "incurable". After leaving the pub in Chalvington they had arrived home at 8pm and gone straight to the bedroom to listen to the BBC concert. He had, she said, begun to drink the gin in spite of her protests. (There is no mention of her having drunk along with him.) At some point during the evening, she had gone downstairs to prepare a meal and then taken it upstairs on a tray. As they listened to the radio, he continued drinking.

"I asked him not to but he got drunk. To try to stop him, I smashed the bottle on the floor and he got up and hit me. I was afraid and told him I was going next door and (I would) stop the night . . . . The time I left my husband was 10.30pm. I did not return until 9am this morning. I . . . then went upstairs and found my husband lying on the floor. He had not eaten any of the meal I left him." (The post-mortem states otherwise.) She knew nothing of the broken chair, she added, but had smashed the squash bottle herself the previous night, along with the gin bottle. (She did not report to the police, as she did to Douglas Day, that she had taken one of her sleeping pills at Mrs Mason's, which prompts the question, How did she happen to have one with her?) From a second statement made to police later that day, it emerges that it was she who found the empty pill bottle, almost two hours after she had first been interrogated and after the police had searched the premises. She had, she said, discovered this bottle, which had contained her twenty sleeping tablets, hidden in a drawer in the spare bedroom. "My husband", she now told the police, "had on previous occasions said I should be better off without him and threatened to take his life . . . . The times he threatened suicide were when he was depressed through alcoholism."

Mrs Mason, in her statement, said that Margerie had knocked on her door looking "poorly and worked up" at about 10.15pm. She told her, "Malcolm and I have had a quarrel, a very bad one. Can I sleep in here for the night?". A camp bed was made up for her to sleep on.

Around midnight, she looked out and saw that all the lights were on in the White Cottage. However, she was not aware that Margerie had left the house at all after her arrival that night, she being a light sleeper and having a dog on the premises. She put Margerie's return to the cottage at 8.30am.

"She came running back shortly afterward, saying, 'Malcolm's gone . . . I think he's dead'." That same day Margerie telephoned Lowry's friend David Markson in New York to break the news. She also spoke to other friends of Lowry's; James Stern found her "incoherent", while John Davenport immediately volunteered to go down to Ripe from London to help arrange the funeral. In a call to her sister, Priscilla, in Hollywood, she said, as she had to the police, that Malcolm had committed suicide, probably for her.

In a series of letters written over the following three weeks to Markson, she again reiterated the suicide story, casting herself in a suitably dramatic role.

"What did he think, feel, when he did it?" she wrote. "That he'd let me down, I'd be better without him? What mad folly! Why, why, why did he do it? Do you know, against every belief I've ever held." Then, as if aware of others' suspicions regarding her - if not that she wanted Malcolm dead, at least that she failed to take care of him - she added, "If I'd gone back at 1am he'd have been alive now. Never, never forgive me as I shall never never forgive myself. But please don't hate me too much, though I'll understand if you do." However, she was already simultaneously offering a different version of events and hinting darkly at a hidden reality. "Only Jimmy Stern and John Davenport here and my sister in America know the truth and none of them knows it all or knows really. The official version is that he died suddenly in his sleep, which is all too true."

For many of Lowry's friends, though, neither "suicide" nor "died in his sleep" rang true.

They detected Margerie's hand in Malcolm's untimely death. Harvey and Dorothy Burt, neighbours from Dollarton, had turned up and were struck by her bizarre and hysterical behaviour. As they arrived, she was very agitated. "They think I murdered him!" she told them, then claimed to have found a suicide note, which she had promptly destroyed. "He must have done it for me", she said. In her statement to the police, however, no note was mentioned.

According to the Burts, for their benefit Margerie put on theatrical displays of grief, vowing to starve herself, but Dorothy surprised her in the kitchen late at night guzzling a chicken. The now-suspicious Burts were also sceptical about Malcolm having taken the barbiturates himself - he was so stricken with the shakes when they had last seen him they thought him incapable of twisting the top off a pill-bottle. In fact, the police report now reveals that not only was the bottle empty but the top had been screwed back on again and the bottle then hidden. Why on earth, asked his friends, would a drunken man intent on suicide first swallow a bottle of pills, carefully screw back the top, and then go to the trouble of hiding the bottle in a drawer in a spare bedroom? All this only went to confirm the Burts' misgivings. They remembered Margerie saying that as a writer Malcolm was finished, and found that she had been phoning Peter Churchill non-stop since Malcolm's death.

David Markson was also sceptical of Margerie's version of events. Once, at his New York flat, he had caught her feeding large numbers of pills to a submissive Lowry. Asked what she was doing, she said they were vitamin tablets that helped him to survive his hangovers. He was, therefore, used to standing obediently, mouth open, swallowing pills fed to him by Margerie.

Had she wanted to feed him sleeping pills he would have gulped them down without a murmur.

To Lowry's more suspicious friends, therefore, Margerie had the motive (hankering after Churchill), the means (the pill-feeding ritual) and the opportunity (the cottage after dark) to dispose of him. The pills were prescribed to Margerie, and the empty bottle was hidden in a drawer full of her clothes. They were convinced in their own minds that foul play had occurred.

At the inquest, Margerie and Mrs Mason were chief witnesses, confirming the account of events given in their statements to the police. The coroner's verdict was "Death by Misadventure", and the causes of death given as inhalation of stomach contents, barbiturate poisoning, and excessive consumption of alcohol. The devout Mrs Mason had dearly hoped for this verdict; it meant that Malcolm could be buried in consecrated ground.

Interestingly enough, Margerie's suggestion of suicide was dismissed. Clearly, she was not regarded by either the police or the court as a particularly credible witness. As the police reports make evident, her exact whereabouts on the night of June 26/27 were the main focus of their investigation. The investigating officer also noted that the very large number of drugs in the bedroom were all prescribed to her. To the police and coroner, Mrs Mason supported Margerie's account of events; in later interviews she did not. In a BBC television interview in 1966, she did not mention Margerie spending the night with her, saying instead that she had remained in the White Cottage, sleeping in the spare bedroom.

The inconsistency of her evidence does suggest that for the benefit of the police and coroner she had agreed a version of events to suit her distraught neighbour.

(Writing to Lowry's French translator on August 9, Margerie also says she was in the cottage that night but sleeping apart from her husband.) After the inquest, Margerie changed her story, reacting angrily to the very suggestion of suicide, especially after it had been hinted at in Malcolm's New York Times obituary. What no one in England knew was that her first husband, the son of a Californian automobile tycoon, had also been an alcoholic, and had killed himself just six years into their marriage.

It is now clear from the police reports that neither they nor the coroner knew anything of the wider circumstances surrounding Lowry's death. Dr Raymond was not called as a witness, so they knew nothing of Lowry's saying that either he would kill Margerie, or vice versa; they knew nothing of her wanting to have him committed, or that (according to him) she had destroyed some of his work; they knew nothing of the suspicions of Lowry's friends that he was incapable of unscrewing a pill bottle-top or, when drunk, of screwing it back on again, and nothing of Margerie's habit of feeding him pills. If Dr Raymond's clinical notes are to be relied on, Margerie also lied to the court about Lowry having been discharged from the Atkinson Morley hospital as "incurable". The doctor judged otherwise.

A further anomaly that remains unexplained is to be found in her statement to Markson that, had she returned to the cottage at 1am, she could have saved him. In her letter she underlined the sentence. But the autopsy quoted at the inquest shows that the pathologist was unable to establish an exact time of death. She also told the police that Lowry had been drinking gin from 7.15pm until 10.30pm; she told Markson that within fifteen minutes of starting on the gin Malcolm was raving.

Although Margerie had not informed the Lowry family, John Davenport had, and Malcolm's eldest brother, Stuart, flew from France to attend the funeral on July 3. He also went away with dark misgivings. As a result, the Lowrys launched a legal action to prevent Margerie ever receiving the capital left in trust for Malcolm by his father. The Burts remained convinced that Lowry had been murdered and that the police had swallowed Margerie's and Mrs Mason's version of that evening's events too readily.

If Lowry was, as his Canadian friends believed and others strongly suspected, the victim of foul play, it would make him one of a select group of English authors to have met his end in this way, the most notable apart from himself being one of Lowry's favorite playwrights, Christopher Marlowe.

Gordon Bowker
Times Literary Supplement: 20 February 2004

MALCOLM LOWRY: DEBAIXO DO ÁLCOOL O VULCÃO É MUITO MAIS SUPORTÁVEL

É pouco vulgar tanto movimento no zócalo. O centro do principal jardim da cidade está ocupado por dezenas de pequenos pavilhões que evocam algumas das mais ilustres linhagens de Cuernavaca cujos familiares ultimam as decorações. No chão, pétalas de cempasúchitl desenham alegremente caveiras a sorrir, fingidos túmulos ao longo da praça evocam vultos da cultura nacional, no lado norte colocam-se as catrinas apresentadas a concurso em mais um Dia dos Mortos. Uns quarteirões a oeste, subindo pela Rua Hidalgo e passando pela Catedral chegamos à Avenida Morelos. No Centro Cultural Universitário também a azáfama é grande: são onze da manhã e está prestes a começar o segundo congresso internacional dedicado a Malcolm Lowry e à sua obra mais conhecida, Debaixo do Vulcão: um louvor à decadência, à solidão, à embriaguez, um manual de autodestruição, um retrato pouco piedoso da violência que pode atingir a condição humana? Ou, para muitos leitores, entre os quais assumidamente se inclui o autor destas linhas, uma lenda literária, uma das obras maiores do século XX.


NASCE UM ESCRITOR

Clarence Malcolm Lowry nasce a 28 de Julho de 1909 em Wallasey, no condado de Cheshire, Inglaterra, no seio de uma família burguesa. É o mais novo dos quatro filhos de Arthur Lowry, rico comerciante de algodão em Liverpool, com propriedades no Egipto, Peru e Estados Unidos, exemplo de páter-famílias trabalhador, dedicado aos preceitos do protestantismo, valores com que educa os filhos, mas que o benjamim, por rebeldia, não acolhe. Preferirá as leituras de Melville ou Conrad Aiken e, em 1927, com 18 anos, suplica ao pai uma viagem ao Oriente. O inquieto Malcolm, agora aprendiz de lobo-do-mar e ajudante de fogueiro, embarca então no navio de carga S.S. Pyrrhus, iniciando uma viagem de seis meses que o levará de Liverpool ao Canal do Suez, Xangai, Japão e Vladivostoque e que estará na origem de Ultramarina. De volta a casa, as aulas em Cambridge já haviam começado, estando o ano escolar, por consequência, perdido. Malcolm bebe como um velho marujo, o que naturalmente preocupa o pai, abstémio e atento ao comportamento do jovem. Por isso, decide matriculá-lo num colégio tido por rigoroso, em Bona, na Alemanha, até começar novo ano lectivo.

No regresso a Inglaterra toma contacto com um livro que será determinante na sua decisão de se dedicar à escrita. Na leitura de Blue Voyage, de Conrad Aiken, escritor norte-americano a viver em Inglaterra, Lowry julgou encontrar a chave de uma estrutura romanesca moderna aliada à grandiosidade da escrita. Aiken passará a ser, a partir de agora, a sua referência; Malcohol, assim chamado pelo mestre, vai com ele para o continente americano, aproveitando para se dedicar com muito entusiasmo a Ultramarina. No Outono de 1929, Malcolm regressa a casa e entra finalmente na Universidade de Cambridge: a par dos estudos, vai revendo o romance. Um dia descobre, perplexo, um livro cujo protagonista é um rapaz socialmente bem instalado que decide experimentar a dureza da vida a bordo. O paralelismo de The Ship Sails On com a história que está a escrever é óbvio; decide por isso ir à Noruega conhecer o seu autor, Nordahl Grieg, que o incentiva a acabar a obra, finalmente publicada por Jonathan Cape, que viria a ser o seu editor em Inglaterra, em 1933.

A sua fama de bebedor e os escândalos em que se envolvia iam aumentando. Contrariado e com algum receio, o pai autoriza-o a passar uns tempos em Paris com a condição de frequentar a Sorbonne. Afinal, Malcolm tinha concluído o curso de Filologia Inglesa e a viagem de certa forma constituiria um prémio. Em França, não vai às aulas, mas a sua conduta não sofre grandes reparos, aprendendo a língua francesa e entregando-se à leitura de Rimbaud e Baudelaire.


O CASAMENTO COM JAN GABRIAL

Na Primavera de 1933 vai com o casal Aiken passar uns tempos a Espanha, a viver então a Segunda República. Provou a aguardente, não poucas vezes em demasia, e chegou a ter problemas com a Guardia Civil andaluza, despertando nos Aiken o desejo de o recambiar para Inglaterra. Até que o milagre aconteceu: no dia 19 de Maio conhece e perde-se de amores por Jan Gabrial, uma bela jornalista norte-americana que estava de férias em Granada (também Yvonne e Geoffrey, de Debaixo do Vulcão, se conheceriam nesta cidade). Jan vai a caminho de Paris (está com um amigo francês), simpatiza com o escritor mas resiste a um romance. Malcolm fica despedaçado, a bebida é o seu refúgio, as autoridades espanholas começam a perder a paciência. No regresso a casa passa por terras lusas, chegando a Londres no final de Maio e ficando vários dias hospitalizado para proceder à desintoxicação de um corpo cheio de aguardente espanhola e, quem sabe, portuguesa.

Em Outubro, Jan, acabada de chegar à capital inglesa, encontra Malcolm casualmente numa sala de espectáculos com o mesmo nome do local onde se haviam conhecido meses antes – o Alhambra Palace. A paixão renasce, desta vez correspondida, acabando triunfalmente e sob o romantismo parisiense em casamento pouco tempo depois, em 6 de Janeiro de 1934. Apesar do casamento, Lowry continua a beber, fazendo com que Jan vá perdendo, gradualmente, a paciência. Estavam casados há pouco mais de um mês quando a mulher parte de férias com uns amigos pela Europa, deixando-o em Paris. Ainda se reencontraram algumas vezes antes de Jan regressar aos Estados Unidos, onde a família a esperava, deixando um marido perdido de álcool e de dor. No entanto, Malcolm não desiste, arrepende-se, considera possível uma reconciliação. Parte para Londres, onde logo apanha um barco para Nova Iorque. Reconquista Jan, alugam um pequeno apartamento em Manhattan e aí vivem juntos durante cerca de um ano.


DO AMOR À LOUCURA, COM O ÁLCOOL PELO MEIO

Em Nova Iorque, Lowry continua a trabalhar num romance que o envolve há alguns anos, In Ballast to the White Sea, e que acabaria por desaparecer no incêndio da sua futura casa em Dollarton (Canadá), tendo sido salvas apenas algumas das mais de duas mil páginas. Pouco se sabe desta obra, o argumento gira à volta da incapacidade de amar e do… alcoolismo, levando-nos, inevitavelmente, a concluir que, tal como acontecera com Ultramarina, o escritor não resiste a colocar no papel as experiências por que passou e a ficcionar, no fundo, a sua própria existência.

Separado mais uma vez de Jan, Malcolm acede a ser internado num hospital para tratamento psiquiátrico. No final de Maio de 1936, após duas semanas de terapia, profundamente impressionado com o que viu, começa a escrever um conto chamado Delirium on the East River. A história trata de um homem com problemas conjugais causados pelo alcoolismo que é internado num hospital psiquiátrico. Mais uma vez, Lowry recorre às suas vivências para fonte de inspiração literária. Como ele trabalhava exaustivamente cada obra, não admira que o conto fosse crescendo e rapidamente se transformasse numa novela. Alguns meses passados daria origem a The Last Address, acabando por assumir, poucos anos depois, o título definitivo: Lunar Caustic.

Em Setembro retoma a relação com Jan Gabrial. Defensores de que a mudança é benéfica, decidem viajar para Los Angeles, onde era fértil o trabalho de guionista e Lowry esperava ser contratado pela MGM. Mas as coisas não correram como esperavam, o trabalho não apareceu, os dólares estavam a acabar. Lembraram-se então de que no México, ali ao lado, a vida era muito mais barata. E quando, no final de Outubro de 1936, o S.S. Pennsylvania aportou em Acapulco, desembarcaram em solo mexicano dois passageiros muito especiais.


MÉXICO!

Chegar ao México em vésperas do Dia dos Mortos é viver uma experiência singular. As ruas estão adornadas com papel colorido recortando caveiras e esqueletos, uma imensidão de vendedores prepara apetitosos tacos, burritos, quesadillas e, sobretudo, tamales, vendem-se flores como nunca, de preferência amarelas, as crianças comem risonhas caveiras de açúcar. Os mariachis tocam com outro vigor entre o rebentamento dos foguetes, as pessoas aderem à festa, a morte sabe a chocolate. Um ambiente destes, com um clima que nada tem do rigor das ilhas britânicas e tão diferente do mundo a que estava habituado, não podia deixar de impressionar e, mais, seduzir Lowry.

Depois de uns dias na capital mexicana, o casal chega a Cuernavaca, alugando uma casa com piscina e jardim na Rua Humboldt, nº 62. A cidade, a recuperar ainda da Revolução, não é grande mas já ganhou a designação de “Cidade da eterna Primavera”, motivando capitalinos (a menos de duas horas de viagem, na época) e turistas norte-americanos a construírem ali a sua casa de férias. E tem outra coisa que muito agrada ao escritor: 57 bares!

Lowry começa aqui a escrever a primeira versão de Debaixo do vulcão, que irá desenvolver durante todo o ano seguinte. Em Dezembro de 1937, Jan abandona-o em definitivo e Lowry vai afogar a dor para Oaxaca, onde, haviam-lhe dito, se faz o melhor mescal. Nesta cidade conhece Juan Fernando Márquez, o amigo mexicano que irá inspirar as figuras do Dr. Vigil e de Juan Cerillo. É muito fácil supor que tenha conhecido todos os lugares onde pudesse molhar a garganta, incluindo, naturalmente, a cantina El Farolito, que transplantará para a literatura. Devido à bebida ou porque foi confundido com um militante comunista gringo, como sustenta, a verdade é que Lowry passa o Natal na cadeia.

Os problemas com as autoridades mexicanas estavam apenas a começar, a polícia começava a reparar no inglês que só bebia e provocava desacatos. A 18 de Março de 1938 expirava o visto que o autorizava a permanecer no país, facto que não preocupou muito Malcolm Lowry. O problema é que, nesse mesmo dia, o Presidente Lázaro Cárdenas nacionalizou as companhias petrolíferas, originando um conflito diplomático com a Inglaterra. A partir dessa data, Lowry estava não só em situação ilegal, como não era, por ser inglês e um bebedor incorrigível, particularmente desejado. Por isso não causou estranheza o facto de meses depois, a poucos dias de fazer 29 anos, ser metido à força num comboio rumo a Nogales, fronteira com os Estados Unidos.


DEBAIXO DO VULCÃO E… MÉXICO, OUTRA VEZ

Em Los Angeles procura Jan, que arranjara entretanto novo companheiro. Através de amigos, conhece uma ex-actriz, Margerie Bonner, com quem casa, indo viver para Vancouver, depois de ter sido expulso dos Estados Unidos. No Canadá alugaram uma pequena cabana junto ao mar. Lowry trabalhará a terceira versão de Debaixo do Vulcão, que o editor Jonathan Cape considera muito espessa e confusa, apesar de ter partes com grande brilhantismo e de grande comoção. Recusada, portanto.

É nessa altura que Malcolm Lowry começa a perceber o que escreve como um projecto mais global, com uma grande ambição literária, a que chamou “A viagem que nunca termina”. À maneira de A Divina Comédia de Dante Alighieri, o projecto assentaria numa trilogia que desse a conhecer o Inferno, o Purgatório e o Paraíso. O Purgatório seria Lunar Caustic; o Paraíso, In Ballast to the White Sea; e o Inferno, Debaixo do Vulcão, naturalmente.

No dia 7 de Junho de 1944 um incêndio destruiu a cabana onde viviam. Correndo risco de vida, Margerie conseguiu salvar a quarta versão do manuscrito e alguns poemas, perdendo-se o resto da obra em que Lowry vinha aos poucos a trabalhar. Aceitam a ajuda de um amigo, que lhes disponibiliza a sua casa em Toronto. É do outro lado do Canadá, mas não havia alternativa. Na noite de Consoada desse ano, Lowry considera acabado o romance em que está envolvido há quase oito anos.

No início do novo ano o casal regressa a Dollarton com o intuito de reconstruir a cabana e em Fevereiro o escritor recebe a notícia de que o pai morrera. Apesar das constantes críticas que Arthur Lowry permanentemente fazia ao filho pela sua opção de vida, não aceitando o facto de ele, ao contrário dos irmãos, preterir o mundo dos negócios, a verdade é que nunca deixou de lhe proporcionar uma mesada de 100 dólares. Em Junho, Lowry envia o manuscrito ao editor, pega no que lhe coube em herança, aplica parte na recuperação da casa e o casal decide viajar até ao México.

Em Dezembro de 1945 está no Hotel Canadá, na Cidade do México, onde anos antes se hospedara com a primeira mulher. Seguem para Cuernavaca, ficando numa casa na mesma Rua Humboldt. Numa viagem a Oaxaca em busca do amigo Fernando, Lowry recebe a notícia de que morrera baleado num bar, algures em Tabasco, para onde o enviara o banco onde trabalhava. A Lowry não resta mais do que homenageá-lo numa obra em que tem vindo a trabalhar, Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid, tida como a continuação de Debaixo do Vulcão.

Em Março, o casal decide ir passar uma temporada a Acapulco. As autoridades reclamam a Lowry uma pretensa multa que ficara por pagar aquando da sua primeira passagem pelo México. O casal está sem passaportes, Margerie, temendo perdê-los, deixara-os guardados em casa, em Cuernavaca. Lowry contesta os 50 pesos da infracção, envolve-se num processo kafkiano e, em Maio, acaba de novo por ser expulso de um país que ama profundamente. Antes, a 6 de Abril, recebera uma dupla de boas notícias: tanto Jonathan Cape, em Inglaterra, como a editora norte-americana Reynal and Hitchcock publicariam Debaixo do Vulcão.

O resto pertence, já se sabe, à História. Regressa ao Canadá, à sua casa de Dollarton. Em Nova Iorque, os excessos dos festejos da publicação do livro acabam em internamento. Lowry e Margerie decidem fazer uma viagem pela Europa, que ela não conhecia, e da qual resultam novas hospitalizações em França e Itália. No regresso a casa, Lowry trabalha com a determinação que a pausa na bebida consente. Em 1952 assina um contrato com a prestigiada Random House, o que lhe permite receber uma mensalidade para finalizar, entre outras obras, Lunar Caustic e Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid. No dia 27 de Junho de 1957, Margerie e Lowry discutem violentamente. Amedrontada com as ameaças de morte, Margerie passa a noite em casa de vizinhos. Na manhã seguinte, ao entrar em casa, encontrará o corpo do escritor no chão, tendo ao lado uma embalagem de barbitúricos vazia e uma garrafa de genebra em pedaços.


QUAUHNAHUAC HOJE

Se para os amantes da literatura é imenso o legado de Debaixo do Vulcão, o que nos resta da Quauhnáhuac de 1937? Os elementos geográficos, naturalmente, ainda estão lá: O Popocatépetl, ligado pela Passagem de Cortés ao Iztaccíhuatl, repousa adormecido há dois anos, quando se deu a sua última erupção. A cidade perdeu nestes 70 anos muitas das características da obra. As ruas continuam a ser estreitas e sinuosas mas já não são azinhagas de terra batida. O Jardim Morelos ainda é o centro da cidade, os casais apaixonados ainda procuram a cumplicidade da sombra dos louros e ao lado, no Jardim Juárez, no coreto que Porfirio Díaz mandou vir da Europa, podemos ouvir a fanfarra municipal às quintas e domingos. Em frente, o imponente Palácio de Cortés, outrora residência do conquistador construída sobre as ruínas de uma pirâmide, é o mais velho edifício civil do país e alberga hoje o Museu Cuauhnáhuac. Nas paredes do primeiro andar estão alguns dos mais conhecidos murais de Diego Rivera.

O Hotel Casino de la Selva, onde no romance um ano depois o Dr. Vigil e Jacques Laruelle recordam os trágicos acontecimentos, já não existe. Com a proibição do jogo no México, o casino entrou em declínio. Em 2001, a sua iminente destruição suscitou um amplo debate na sociedade mas acabou por ser derrubado para dar lugar a mais um supermercado do grupo Comercial Mexicana. Os murais do hotel de que fala a obra de Lowry estão conservados e integrados no novo Centro Cultural Muros. O caminho-de-ferro também já não serve a cidade. O edifício da estação, longe do centro, junto à grande Avenida Plan de Ayala, e a caminho dos lugares romanceados de Tomalín ou Parían (onde fica o célebre El Farolito), acompanhou a degradação do lugar. Não muito distante, o barranco de Amanalco, onde o corpo de Geoffrey Firmin se perdeu para sempre, continua a intimidar. O Cine Morelos, que exibia o filme Las Manos de Orlac que tanto incomodava o ex-cônsul, ainda funciona, não na Avenida Revolución, que a obra refere e em cujo nº 8 o Dr. Vigil tinha consultório (não há, de resto, memória, em Cuernavaca, de uma rua com esse nome), mas na Avenida Morelos.

O Jardim Borda, casa de Verão do Imperador Maximiliano e onde Emiliano Zapata e Porfirio Díaz deram grandes banquetes, está recuperado e foi posto ao serviço das artes. A poucos metros, na parede da Catedral, Inocêncio III continua a proteger S. Francisco de Assis. Finalmente, a casa onde ficou na segunda viagem, na Rua Humboldt (a mítica Calle Nicaragua), permanece de pé graças aos esforços dos admiradores do escritor em Cuernavaca e da Fundação Malcolm Lowry. Hoje tem o nº 17, em frente termina a Rua Bartolomé de las Casas. Na obra é a casa de Laruelle, que ostenta o célebre “no se puede vivir sin amar”, e nela está instalado o Hotel Bajo el Volcán.

Debaixo do Vulcão é consensualmente considerada uma das grandes criações literárias do século XX. Não é uma obra fácil, a sua leitura não é linear, tendo vários níveis interpretativos, e, porque Lowry era bastante místico, imensas referências ocultas e cabalísticas (a célebre carta a Cape de 2 de Janeiro de 1946 demonstra-o bem), tendo sempre suscitado, também por isso, um amplo e por vezes difícil debate. A Fundação Malcolm Lowry promove o autor e a sua obra, e à sua volta milita um contingente de indefectíveis admiradores nos quatro cantos do mundo. Octavio Paz considera que o tema principal da obra é a expulsão do Paraíso; Lowry, na carta atrás referida, vai mais longe: “Por cada mil escritores que podem criar personagens convincentes até à perfeição apenas um dirá algo de novo sobre o fogo do Inferno. E o que eu digo é algo de novo sobre o fogo do Inferno.” Malcolm Lowry, autor de uma das grandes obras da Literatura, sabia do que falava.

Marcelo Teixeira, Lisboa

DEBAIXO DO VULCÃO

Alguém atirou um cão
morto às profundidades
Malcolm Lowry

I
Malcolm
Lowry: vivo
mal como Lowry,
bebo
bem como Mal-
colm, como
mal como
Malcolm
come:
álcool
Malcolm, al
coolm.
Ó
alcolmalcolm

II
Ó frígida
tequilla
no sopé do vulcão
por onde
o vulnerável cão
do espírito
ladra
e lavra
a essência
recôndita
do álcool:
conte-a
a bebidíssima
exigência

III
do meu
último copo,
sempre o último,
cante-a
o ex-tinto
vulcão
e por instinto
o vulnerável
cão,
ou plante-a
o próprio Lowry,
frágil,
entre lava
e neve:

IV
tépido mescal
para inventar
a mescaligrafia
gémea do som
ou da sombria
pauta musical
onde as notas florescem
em breves,
compactas corolas,
e hastes
que sobem, descem
esguiamente
os degraus
dum jardim,

V
enquanto
os índios passam
depressa
mas de pedra,
ficam
antepondo-se
ao norte
que fabrica
os países
com vidro,
com vinho, com visões
de videiras vitais
debaixo
do vulcão,

VI
ó tépida tequilla,
existe ainda
o amor
e o vulnerável cão
do espírito
que lavra
cada palavra
oculta
por pudor
e a ladra
inutilmente
dentro
da garganta
vazia,

VII
frígido mescal
como um galope
na floresta
de vinho e vidro,
filtro
litro a litro,
animal,
animais,
e mais e só
o dorido espírito
do álcool,
Malcolm,
entre neve
e lava:

VIII
os índios passam,
bebo, ficam,
na sombria
pauta musical,
e o vulnerável cão
do amor
sossega pelo menos
um instante,
enquanto
os índios
sobem, descem
esguiamente
os degraus das pirâmides.

Carlos de Oliveira in Micropaisagem, 1968.

Escritor português, nasceu em Belém do Pará (Brasil) a 10 de Agosto de 1921. Depois de a família regressar a Portugal, vai estudar para Coimbra, em cuja universidade estuda Ciências Histórico-Filosóficas. Nesta cidade estabelece amizade e convívio intelectual e ideológico com Joaquim Namorado, Fernando Namora ou João José Cochofel, também estudantes, que viriam a ser escritores com grande reconhecimento. Tendo por base um olhar neo-realista, combina uma preocupação de intervenção social com um apurado exercício reflexivo do processo da escrita. As suas obras mais conhecidas são Uma abelha na chuva e Finisterra. A sua obra poética está reunida sob o título Trabalho poético. Morreu em Lisboa no dia 1 de Julho de 1981.

Carlos de Oliveira es un escritor portugués nacido en Belém do Pará, Brasil, el 10 de agosto de 1921. Cuando su familia regresó a Portugal fue a Coimbra en cuya Universidad estudió ciencias histórico-filosóficas. Allí estableció amistad y relación intelectual con Joaquim Namorado, Fernando Namora y João José Cochofel, que también eran estudiantes y que llegarían a ser escritores muy reconocidos. Teniendo por base una mirada neo-realista, combina su preocupación de cambio social con un fino ejercicio reflexivo del proceso de escritura. Sus obras más conocidas son Uma abelha na chuva y Finisterra. Su obra poética está reunida bajo el titulo Trabalho poético. Murió en Lisboa el 1 de julio de 1981.

Interview with Chris Ackerley

Q: Where did Lowry live in the first time he came to Cuernavaca?

A: He lived on the other side of the zacualli, near the calle Salazar. In the book it’s close to Maximilian’s house.

Q: Is Yvonne real?

A: We don’t know many things in the volcano because of the day of the death, she has a spiritual dimension, she’s a figure that’s part of this world and part of something else. He lives in a world of his own imagination and Yvonne is real but also she isn’t, maybe his wife who has come back but she may be a figure of the day of the death, because in this day the death people visit de living ones. The perspective is Consul’s one, so we can’t be sure how real this figures are and that includes Yvonne, for us she is real but for him is partly a phantom. He just can’t believe she’s there of in part he doesn’t want to take the responsibility for his drinking.

Q: Where is the Parian and the Farolito, were there such places in real life?

A: My talk was called: the geography of imagination, the real world is changed by Lowry to create a fictional world where many things happen. Firstly Tomalin and Parian do exist, but near Oaxaca, not near Cuernavaca. Secondly there are towns like Amecameca and Tetela which are in the right place near Cuernavaca, so one landscape is yuxtaposed on the other, then we have three problems: Chapultepec is too close, Tomalín and Parian are in Oaxaca and Amecameca and Tetela are too far, but in the right place near the volcanoes and the right distance for the trip in the bus, Tomalin would be Yautepec or Cuautla.

Q: Where was the dying Indian?

A: First the bullthrowing is in Chapultepec, but it’s too close and the dying Indian should be in an isolated place. It’s changed or put farther at about a distance like Yautepec, or an hour’s time journey in the bus, then brings the volcanoes closer and finally names the towns Tomalin and Parian (in real life in Oaxaca, as well as Nochtitlan) which are Tomalín a very small town and Parian a rancheria and the Farolito half an hours walking.

Q: What elements are taken from the Oaxaca landscape into the Quauhnáhuac’s?

A: He brings also the Farolito in Oaxaca to his imaginary world in Parian, as he does with the virgin of Solitude from Oaxaca also.

Q: “Lowry is not describing a place, but constructing one, a Mexico of the mind” says Ronald Walker, what do you say?

A: He is mostly right, but when he constructs a place he has an objective, he didn’t invent things but changed things he saw, Lowry constructs a Mexico of the mind, but it comes from the real one. The interesting thing is how Lowry constructs a “Mexico of the mind” because he always works from something given to create his own fictional world.

Q: What do you think about the Casino de la Selva is being built down to construct a supercenter?

A: It is always tragic when something associated with a great work of literature disappears, but it’s particularly sad how something as important as the Casino de la Selva is replaced by a supermarket.

Q: Did Lowry want to see things from an Indian point of view?

A: No, because the book has no other choice than telling the story from a European perspective because Lowry and the Consul are Europeans in Mexico, but I think Lowry is sympathetic to much of Mexico. However the Consul is very aware that his position in Mexico is compromised and for instance he’s trading in the black market with silver and so several times he sees himself as a modern day conqueror exploiting the country as the Spaniards do and one way to look at his death is as a kind of a sacrifice for that sin or crime.

Q: Is it good that Lowry didn’t write the prologue in which he declared his sympathy to Mexico?

A: It is better not to have a prologue or anything from the author, it’s better to trust the book.

Q: What day was November 2nd 1938?

A: In the book it’s a Sunday 1938. There was a red cross at some point, but again it’s thematic important because the dying Indian doesn’t have help.

Q: Will you still work with the volcano?

A: As a result of the conference and for walking around Cuernavaca again, I want to develop my talk into a monographic book in which I will look at the way these transformations were made. It would be a fascinating study in the creative imagination to see how Lowry constructed his fictional world out of different places of the real one.

Q: “But the name of this land is hell?”

A: First it’s colourful, second, sympathetic to his imagination of a place between heaven and hell to place this battle. Third because many elements of Mexican past shape themselves into a gigantic tragedy of betrayal.

Q: How did you find Cuernavaca, is it very different from 1982?

A: It’s been twenty years since I was last here and I don’t want to pass other twenty years to come again, many things were in 1982 have disappeared. In 1982 I was younger, I didn’t know Lowry’s work that much, coming now has enriched the experience and my understanding of Lowry’s world. He captures that sense of place.

Q: Did you find anything new in this visit?

A: I have found more facts, have corrected many of my earlier mistakes, have a better sense of the physical and the fictional landscape, so the visit has been valuable. I have taken so many other photos and have discovered many other photographs such as the Bella Vista’s in other books and so, I am very thankful to all of you.

Interview with Chris Ackerley
November 2002

Interview with Sherrill Grace

Q: Do you think Lowry could have really finished “The Voyage…” It was a titanic enterprise and it took him nearly 10 years to complete one book.

A: He could have finished it if he has had good health and a stable home. the point is that he had neither. His drinking increased after 1953 when he lost his contract with Random House and he lost his cabin at Dollarton; it was downhill after that and I do not believe he ever established himself properly and productively in England. so, under the real circumstances of his last 7 years or so, the answer is no he was not able to complete it. Remember: he died young and IF he had lived and been well, yes he could have done it.

Q: Was it good for Mexico’s image Lowry didn’t published “La Mordida”?

A: I don't think "Mexico's image" (whatever that is!) would have suffered from La Mordida. I do think it was not ready for publication and would not have helped Lowry's image.

Q: What is the relationship between Lowry and Mexico? Some say he didn’t understand what was going on around him, some others say it was the opposite.

A: Lowry and Mexico is a complex question. He understood some things and did not observe or appreciate others. My view is that he appreciated a deep and complex humanity in Mexico, that he marvelled at the history, the complex layers of culture, and the physical beauty. He also hated the "authorities"—but he hated them everywhere, nowhere more so than in England—which he despised--and in Vancouver which he loved and loathed. Mexico spoke to his own humanity and to his deep sense of fair play, I feel. He saw the country as the victim of some of the worst "white" and European aggression and greed, thus Mexico became for him the perfect stage upon which to castigate western failings, his failings, United States failings, and always —British failings and snobbism.

Q: “But the name of this land is Hell. / It’s not Mexico of course, but in the heart.” What does this mean?

A: It means just what it says: we make our hells ourselves by being cruel, lacking in compassion, by being aggressive, hypocritical, greedy, unforgiving. No se puede vivir sin amar.

Q: Did Lowry believe in reincarnation? I have the impression he had a kind of a personal religion.

A: Not that I am aware. His personal spiritual beliefs were very strong but they were not in reincarnation. He believed in the human spirit, in the natural world, in the best aspects of Christianity—love and forgiveness and gentleness and tolerance.

Q: What did Mexico give him to push him to write such a mystique novel?

A: Mexico stimulated his imagination insofar as it provided the perfect stage for his great drama of suffering and failure—and great promise, always great promise. It placed him at a useful distance from Anglo culture—whether in England or the USA (and god knows he would be critical of Canada when he got here!) —and thereby allowed him to see clearly what was wrong with the world he came from--the West, Europe. Lowry was postcolonial in many ways and despised imperialism, empires, the rape of the so-called 'new world.' The contradictions of Empire were right in his face in Mexico.

Q: After being deported he threw up a curse upon Mexico, it couldn’t have been different, he suffered very much in that process. What do you think?

A: I think his "curse" as you call it was a pose. More Lowryan theatrics. He cursed the ugly bars in Vancouver, the behaviour of his family--philistines as far as he was concerned—etc. etc. Mind you he had a very frightening experience which he had not really sought out--as he certainly had in the 30s, when his constant drinking caused his own trouble.

Q: García Márquez says that one of the authors who influenced him too much was Malcolm Lowry, what do you say about it?

A: Goodness knows what Marquez meant. Possibly he felt that Lowry's vision and style were so strong that —like the armadillo— he would pull a person who came under his influence right along with him. Faulkner has had something of that kind of influence on younger writers, as had Joyce. But in the last analysis Marquez is very different from Lowry, Marquez has his own unique voice so he used and then got away from Lowry's influence.

Q: What do you think about the mystery of his death, did he commit suicide?

A: I think his death may well have been intentional —whether suicide or not I can't say. No one can. We may never know exactly what Margerie's role was on that night but he had been violent towards her in the past —and to Jan— and he was violent that night.

Q: How important was Margerie’s collaboration for the final draft of Under the Volcano?

A: In my view Marjorie was essential to UV and all Lowry's work, perhaps not so much as a collaborator but as a sounding board who could advise him, often very wisely, against longeurs. And she was essential for all the practical aspects of typing and re drafting and revising.

Q: You say that alcohol is a metaphor for “human isolation and collapse of western culture”, what are the main sins or errors of the western culture, does that include abortion?

A: Good grief! What do I think the main sins are? or what do I think Lowry thought they were? see my answers to the above questions #3 and #4. Abortion? why do you ask? Because of the Consul's nasty accusation of Yvonne? You must remember that that kind of vitriol was fairly standard cliched misogyny in Lowry's day. Lowry would have been the worst of all possible parents —he was a child himself always. for myself— of course abortion is not a sin. It is a great sin to bring children into the world and exploit or abuse them or populate the world with starving children. Children deserve to be wanted and cherished and women have the right to have children or not--as they choose.

Q: How important was for Lowry’s vision of Mexico, and for his writing to have had a really close Mexican friend like Juan Fernando Márquez?

A: I cannot answer this because I have no real idea how close a friend this man really was.

Q: What’s the relationship between the landscape and the situation of the feelings of the characters?

A: this is a huge subject and would take hundreds of words to deal with. The four main characters have very different perceptions of the Mexican landscape and they are symbolic as much as experiential.

Q: Was there a moment when Lowry (Firmin) really wanted to become a Mexican subject or is he just using the story of William Blackstone for romantic purposes?

A: No. Blackstone is a thematic motif. He fled so-called gringo civilization because he loathed it. Therefore, he becomes a sign of critique and opposition to that culture.

Interview with Sherrill Grace
Held during The Malcolm Lowry International Colloquium 2002

Interview with Sherrill Grace

Q: Do you think Lowry could have really finished “The Voyage…” It was a titanic enterprise and it took him nearly 10 years to complete one book.

A: He could have finished it if he has had good health and a stable home. the point is that he had neither. His drinking increased after 1953 when he lost his contract with Random House and he lost his cabin at Dollarton; it was downhill after that and I do not believe he ever established himself properly and productively in England. so, under the real circumstances of his last 7 years or so, the answer is no he was not able to complete it. Remember: he died young and IF he had lived and been well, yes he could have done it.

Q: Was it good for Mexico’s image Lowry didn’t published “La Mordida”?

A: I don't think "Mexico's image" (whatever that is!) would have suffered from La Mordida. I do think it was not ready for publication and would not have helped Lowry's image.

Q: What is the relationship between Lowry and Mexico? Some say he didn’t understand what was going on around him, some others say it was the opposite.

A: Lowry and Mexico is a complex question. He understood some things and did not observe or appreciate others. My view is that he appreciated a deep and complex humanity in Mexico, that he marvelled at the history, the complex layers of culture, and the physical beauty. He also hated the "authorities"—but he hated them everywhere, nowhere more so than in England—which he despised--and in Vancouver which he loved and loathed. Mexico spoke to his own humanity and to his deep sense of fair play, I feel. He saw the country as the victim of some of the worst "white" and European aggression and greed, thus Mexico became for him the perfect stage upon which to castigate western failings, his failings, United States failings, and always —British failings and snobbism.

Q: “But the name of this land is Hell. / It’s not Mexico of course, but in the heart.” What does this mean?

A: It means just what it says: we make our hells ourselves by being cruel, lacking in compassion, by being aggressive, hypocritical, greedy, unforgiving. No se puede vivir sin amar.

Q: Did Lowry believe in reincarnation? I have the impression he had a kind of a personal religion.

A: Not that I am aware. His personal spiritual beliefs were very strong but they were not in reincarnation. He believed in the human spirit, in the natural world, in the best aspects of Christianity—love and forgiveness and gentleness and tolerance.

Q: What did Mexico give him to push him to write such a mystique novel?

A: Mexico stimulated his imagination insofar as it provided the perfect stage for his great drama of suffering and failure—and great promise, always great promise. It placed him at a useful distance from Anglo culture—whether in England or the USA (and god knows he would be critical of Canada when he got here!) —and thereby allowed him to see clearly what was wrong with the world he came from--the West, Europe. Lowry was postcolonial in many ways and despised imperialism, empires, the rape of the so-called 'new world.' The contradictions of Empire were right in his face in Mexico.

Q: After being deported he threw up a curse upon Mexico, it couldn’t have been different, he suffered very much in that process. What do you think?

A: I think his "curse" as you call it was a pose. More Lowryan theatrics. He cursed the ugly bars in Vancouver, the behaviour of his family--philistines as far as he was concerned—etc. etc. Mind you he had a very frightening experience which he had not really sought out--as he certainly had in the 30s, when his constant drinking caused his own trouble.

Q: García Márquez says that one of the authors who influenced him too much was Malcolm Lowry, what do you say about it?

A: Goodness knows what Marquez meant. Possibly he felt that Lowry's vision and style were so strong that —like the armadillo— he would pull a person who came under his influence right along with him. Faulkner has had something of that kind of influence on younger writers, as had Joyce. But in the last analysis Marquez is very different from Lowry, Marquez has his own unique voice so he used and then got away from Lowry's influence.

Q: What do you think about the mystery of his death, did he commit suicide?

A: I think his death may well have been intentional —whether suicide or not I can't say. No one can. We may never know exactly what Margerie's role was on that night but he had been violent towards her in the past —and to Jan— and he was violent that night.

Q: How important was Margerie’s collaboration for the final draft of Under the Volcano?

A: In my view Marjorie was essential to UV and all Lowry's work, perhaps not so much as a collaborator but as a sounding board who could advise him, often very wisely, against longeurs. And she was essential for all the practical aspects of typing and re drafting and revising.

Q: You say that alcohol is a metaphor for “human isolation and collapse of western culture”, what are the main sins or errors of the western culture, does that include abortion?

A: Good grief! What do I think the main sins are? or what do I think Lowry thought they were? see my answers to the above questions #3 and #4. Abortion? why do you ask? Because of the Consul's nasty accusation of Yvonne? You must remember that that kind of vitriol was fairly standard cliched misogyny in Lowry's day. Lowry would have been the worst of all possible parents —he was a child himself always. for myself— of course abortion is not a sin. It is a great sin to bring children into the world and exploit or abuse them or populate the world with starving children. Children deserve to be wanted and cherished and women have the right to have children or not--as they choose.

Q: How important was for Lowry’s vision of Mexico, and for his writing to have had a really close Mexican friend like Juan Fernando Márquez?

A: I cannot answer this because I have no real idea how close a friend this man really was.

Q: What’s the relationship between the landscape and the situation of the feelings of the characters?

A: this is a huge subject and would take hundreds of words to deal with. The four main characters have very different perceptions of the Mexican landscape and they are symbolic as much as experiential.

Q: Was there a moment when Lowry (Firmin) really wanted to become a Mexican subject or is he just using the story of William Blackstone for romantic purposes?

A: No. Blackstone is a thematic motif. He fled so-called gringo civilization because he loathed it. Therefore, he becomes a sign of critique and opposition to that culture.

Interview with Sherrill Grace
Held during The Malcolm Lowry International Colloquium 2002

The geography of imagination




First, let me express my pleasure in being here. I was last in Cuernavaca 20 years ago, to gather information for my annotation of Under the Volcano, which was published in 1984 as A Companion to Under the Volcano. [Show copy of the book] I will be interested to note how many things have changed in these past 20 years, and to see what is still here today. One thing my Companion tried to do was to rescue things from Lowry's world before they disappeared into the mists of the past. At the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, where many of Lowry's manuscripts are kept, there is also a set of photographs taken by a visitor to Cuernavaca in 1949. Some of these I shall show you, as they indicate how quickly a world can be lost.

I have entitled my talk "The Geography of the Imagination in Under the Volcano." I want to look at how Malcolm Lowry transformed the literal landscape of Cuernavaca into the literary landscape of Quauhnahuac. And by "Quauhnahuac" I mean the fictional town of Under the Volcano, something that is the creation of an artistic imagination working upon the world he saw around him, but also transforming it into something else, not simply an artifact but a cosmos, that is, a world with its own imagined unity, its laws and locations, which both reflect our world yet exist independently of it. As we move through these slides, I shall try to depict not only the literal geography, but also the thematic use that is made of it. And because this is a big topic, I shall make reference mostly to Ch. 1. In his "Letter to Jonathan Cape" in 1946, Lowry responded to the charge that the "Mexican landscape was heaped on in shovelfuls". I would say rather, that this chapter more than any other sets in motion the rhythms of the land.

I want to do several things in this talk. Firstly, I will show you a map of the fictional Quauhnahuac. I drew this 20 years ago. Next, I will show some slides that illustrate things in Cuernavaca that Lowry saw and put into his novel. Then, I will discuss other features of Mexico that have become part of the fictional town of Quauhnahuac even though they have come from somewhere else in the real world. Finally, I will look at some of the literary and artistic techniques that Lowry used to create his landscape. I will bring all these things together by following the route that Jacques Laruelle takes in Chapter 1. Let me add that it is a unique experience to do this in the actual town in which the novel was set, and I hope as we walk through the town later that we can verify some of these things.

Firstly, here is Lowry's Quauhnahuac, his fictional town. [Show slide of the town's name]. Most of you will know that the name means in Nahuatl something like "near the trees", or wood, and the glyph depicts a talking tree. The Spaniards corrupted this to "Cuernavaca", or "Cow's Horn". However, the action in Lowry's novel begins at the Casino de la Selva, [slide 2, Casino de la Selva] which Lowry of course associated with Dante's "dark wood", the literary detail works hand in hand with the geographical. Let me show you the map [Display transparency of map on overhead projector]. The thing to note about this is that what we see here is the town of Cuernavaca, but many things have been changed. The map is a mixture of the real town and the fictional town, as we can see if we follow Laruelle after he leaves the Casino. I shall point to the places I mention.

Before we set off, let me show you something that shows how Lowry changed his world. Perhaps I should call it social geography, rather than physical [show anís de mono slide]. You will recall that in the book the label depicts a devil with a pitchfork. You can see here that the original shows a monkey, although he is admittedly he is very demonic. Lowry did something similar to his landscape, that is, he took the original and adapted it to his symbolic purposes.

The first distinct place Laruelle stops at is the station [show slide 4, the Station]. You will see here oil tankers, which is a reminder of the political situation in 1938, when foreign international companies condemned Mexico, and there is even a dog. Laruelle then crosses what were once open fields [point to route on map], but which now are crowded suburbs. Somewhere near here is the brewery, [slide 5, the Brewery]. Notice the tall tree in front of the brewery. [point]. In Chapter 4 the Consul likens the Valley of Mexico to Kashmir, and refers to the "turbaned trees" to make his point. This is one way of linking the geography of Mexico with that of India. He passes a model farm, which has long gone, and goes by the prison, as Hugh and Yvonne will in Ch. 4 [show slide 6, the Prison; point to location on the map]. This is a 1949 photo, but it conveys something of the presence of the prison in the novel, the sense of being watched [point to the mirador]. This was once a park that belonged to Maximilian, but the first chapter shows how the shadow of the prison and brewery now broods over it, and these details in turn enforce the theme of the Consul's drinking, and thus of his inevitable decline. That is, the geography is also historical, and thematic.

Laruelle now visits, he says, the former casa of Maximilian, [point to casa on map]. I took a photo of it in 1982. [show slide 6] It was then a botanical centre and herbal museum. However, Lowry turns it into a ruined palace. He does so very simply, by moving from across town the Borda Gardens [point to map, indicate movement]. In other words, he needed the casa for his story but the setting was not dramatic enough. So he rearranged the features of Curenavaca to meet the demands of his fictional Quauhnahuac. Here are two slides of how it looked in Lowry's time [show slides 8 and 9]. And here is another, taken by me in 1982. [Show slide 10] It has the right depressing tone. but I took the photo because of the bird in the middle. I thought it was a vulture, the first I had seen in Mexico, but it turned out to be a duck.

Here are some photos taken in the Borda Gardens on a previous day of the Dead. [Show slides 11, 12, 13] In the last slide there is a notice. No prizes for guessing what it says. Yes: Le Gusta Este Jardín Que Es Suyo? ⁄Evite Que Sus Hijos Lo Destruyan! Now, this notice was not there in Lowry's time. Rather, he saw one like this in a park in Oaxaca, and he brought it to his Quauhnahuac. He did the same thing with the Farolito. There was a Farolito in Cuernavaca [show slide 14], but Lowry's model was the one in Oaxaca [show slide 15] Oddly, you cannot place the Farolito on the map. Perhaps Lowry had not visualized the geography closely enough. That is, it does not have a physical grounding in the place. And you will not find on this map the Church for the Virgin for those that have nobody with, because that is also in Oaxaca [show slides 16, 17 and 18]. There is no hint in the novel where this church might be. However, the bells heard by the Consul in Ch. 5 come from the cathedral in Cuernavaca [point to place on map]. Lowry's geography of Quauhnahuac is a composite picture, not simply a mirror.

Leaving Maximilian's casa, Laruelle crosses the barranca [show slide 19]. This is the Abyss, Dante's Malbolge, the chasm within the heart of man. This is at the very point where Cortés and his men crossed, as is depicted on the walls of the Cort\és Palace [show slide 20]. When he arrived in Cuernavaca, Lowry found himself in a symbolic landscape perfect for the novel. For example, there were mine shafts of old iron mines beneath the town. Like the barrancas, these could suggest the realms of the demonic, a world with hell below, and heaven above, and a battle for the soul of man somewhere between. This is the world of Marlowe, Milton and Goethe. The volcano is an emblem of this battle. But the volcanoes in Cuernavaca were not quite perfect. They look good in the pictures: Popocatepetl, the warrior prince [show slide 21]; Ixtaccihautl, his bride who died, [show slide 22]; and in this aerial shot an image of both volcanoes, and of the pass over which Cortes came to destroy Tenochtitlán [show slide 23]. However, if you look for the volcanoes you may not find them. Lowry has moved them from the Cerro Tlaloc, 75 kilometers away, much closer to Quauhnahuac, so that they can brood over the town, the snowy peaks symbolising man's aspiration, but the fiery heart an emblem of the Inferno.

Crossing the barranca, Laruelle heads towards the Zócalo, the centre of town. Here, my map is misleading [point to Calle Humboldt]. It reads, the Calle Humboldt, as in Cuernavaca, but in the book it is the Calle Nicaragua. Why did Lowry make this change? I have a curious suggestion, and it concerns volcanoes. The Panama Canal goes through Panama, as you know; indeed, Lowry wrote a story called "Through the Panama". But an alternative proposal was through Nicaragua. This didn't happen, because of a postage stamp from Nicaragua, one that depicted an active volcano and ruined that country's chances. The Calle las Casas [point to map] becomes in the book the Calle Tierra del Fuego. Here the connection with Hell is more clear, through its resemblance to a scorpion. But if you look at the map [point to little side-street], you will see a little road making a detour from the Calle Humboldt to Las Casas. This road does not exist in Cuernavaca. Lowry has added it to the geography of the town for two reasons. Firstly, in Dante's Divine Comedy, the damned always turn to the left, as Lowry's characters do in Chapter 7 when they take this path. Secondly, Yvonne suggests that they should take this path because she wants to AVOID meeting Jacques Laruelle, and instead, by a cruel trick of the gods, they meet Laruelle coming up that path.

Here is the Consul's house [point to map]. This is in the fictional Quauhnahuac. However, in the real Cuernavaca Lowry's bungalow was at the other end of the street [indicate on map]. Why did Lowry make this change? Partly because he wants M. Laruelle to pass by it on his walk, to see the light that has been burning for a year, and to liken the garden to Eden, after the expulsion of Adam; but also because in Cuernavaca this was the wealthy area, the area in which the ambassadors and diplomats owned their residences. Lowry also exaggerates the steepness of the street. [slide 24] As you can see, it is neither steep nor tortuous. Yet Lowry in the novel wishes to draw parallels to the Via Dolorosa, the road to Golgotha, as part of his attempt to mythologize the Consul's sufferings. So, in the fictional town, the road is steeper. In like manner, on the opening page of the novel, the town is said to be on a hill. This is because in books like Pilgrim's Progress that is where truth is said to reside.

Here is Jacques's zacuali. [point to location], the house (now a hotel) in which Lowry stayed when he came back in 1946. Here are two photographs which suggest how it has changed, [slides 25 & 26], and you might like to compare them with the hotel today. "Zacuali" is a curious word. Lowry found it in a book by Louis Spence, a book which discussed the parallels between the myths of the Old World and those of the New. One such myth was the myth of the flood, a myth of destruction. Laruelle's world is also pitched on the eve of destruction, in 1939 as the world is about to explode into war, and his house will not be a refuge. This is where Laruelle and Yvonne committed adultery, and in Chapter 7, inside this very house, Yvonne is suddenly haunted by the thought of aborted babies, a little row of chained statues 3 [show slide 27]. This is part of the Cortés Palace, and the figures are no longer there. I suggest that Lowry's imagination moved them from the Palace, and replaced them inside Laruelle's house, as one of the objects he has plundered from Mexico, but cannot take home to France.

So let us now move down the Calle las Casa towards the Zócalo. But first we must stop at the Cortés Palace [slide 28]. But between 1526 and 1529, just after the Conquest, it consolidated the Spanish hold upon the new territory. As you all know, the balcony of the Palace is covered by the murals of Diego Rivera, depicting the history of Morelos from the pre-Conquest [show slide 29] with scenes of exploitation and brutality, [show slide 30], until the liberation by Zapata, on his white horse. (The photo I took of this in 1982 did not work, so I am back to take another). The conquest functions for Lowry as a metaphor of greed and betrayal; it is fascinating to read Under the Volcano with an awareness of this underlying theme.

I have a number of other slides depicting aspects of the Conquest, from both here and Tlaxcala, if we have a further opportunity to see them. But here are just a few. Firstly, the pyramid at Cholula, the largest in America, [show slide 31] which acts in the book as another mystical link between the Old World and the New World (as you will recall, the Consul is writing a Great Book, and that book of secret knowledge deals with the mystery of Atlantis as a key to understanding. But for Laruelle it signals betrayal. He remembers visiting it with Geoffrey and Yvonne, presumably after the affair but before the Consul had found out about it. But in 1919 Cholula had been the scene of a different betrayal, when Cortés massacred 3,000 Cholulan Indians. The geography, the history of Mexico, and the present day are all part of one giant process of betrayal. Here's another emblem of the same thing. In Chapter 2, as the Consul and Yvonne are climbing this hill which Laruelle has just descended [point to Las Casa on the map], they see signs saying !BOX!, for boxing matches to be held at the Jardín Xicotancatl. There is no such Garden in Cuernavaca. However, a central plaza in the city of Tlaxcala is named after the warrior prince Xicotancatl [slide 32] whose statue dominates the plaza. He too was betrayed and murdered by Cortés. Again, the Jardín Xicotancatl cannot be located on this map, for the good reason that it is not part of the real town, but only the fictional one.

The centre of the town is the Zócalo [point to it on the map]. This is where Yvonne arrives in the morning, in Chapter 2, at the Bella Vista [show slide 33]. This slide is very poor, but you can see the difference between now and then. Yvonne sees there many things which are important to the novel. Here is the little grocery store called "Peegly Weegly", [point to the map], a name that makes Yvonne cry. I do not have a photo of this, and would very much like to get one. But she also sees some things that probably were never there. For example, the ferris wheeel, [show slide 34], perhaps the most important emblem in the novel of the Infernal Machine. Yet in 1982 when I came here this Big Wheel was in a small park, quite some distance from the Zócalo, and I am not sure that it was ever really in the centre of the town. Yvonne also sees an equestrian statue, said to be that of the turbulent Huerta. Now, Huerta is like Díaz, a disgraced politician, and I do not think there is a statue of him anywhere in Mewxico. But on the road in from Mexico City, and some of you may have seen this, as I did in 1982, there is a splendid equestrian statue of Zapata [show slide 35]. I would like to confirm the date that it was erected, but I suspect that, again, Lowry may have moved it from the real location into the centre of the town, where it gains great symbolic force [show slide 36] because the rider Huerta is replaced in Yvonne's imagination by the Consul, another drunk who has disregarded his duty, and in his route to destruction rides over all in his way, as the horse released by the Consul will later ride over Yvonne.

In the novel, Laruelle finally makes his way to the Ciné Morleos, which is said to be directly opposite the Borda Gardens. [show slide 37]. This is curious. In the real Cuernavaca, the Cinema Ocampo was on the Zócalo, but I suspect Lowry wanted to acknowledge the real Borda Gardens, the ruins of which he had moved to the Casa Maximiliano. On the back of the Borda Gardens I found this sign [show slide 38]. It is, of course, a cure for influenza, but Lowry decided to call it an insecticide. I do not know if the sign is still there today. Perhaps we can check this out later.

In the cinema, as you will recall, Laruelle finds the letter from the Consul hidden in the book of Elizabethan plays. This allows him to evoke a different kind of geography, a Northern Paradise which is an escape from the Inferno of Mexico. Here are some images of that vision. Firstly, the cool northern waters near Vancouver, where Lowry wrote most of the novel [show slide 39]; the house that he would build there [slide 40]; the pier [slide 41]; and the fishing-boat with a mast like a giraffe [slide 42]. But eviction from this paradise was never far away, and across the bay was a SHELL oil-refinery [show 43]. The letters S-H-E-L-L could be read at night from where the Lowrys lived, but one day, the story goes, the S was extinguished and the night was filled with a vision of H-E-L-L, Hell. Lowry, even after he left Mexico, remained caught in a vision of damnation, whose monument is this novel.

But one final curiosity. You will see on the map that the road running north from the Zócalo is the Avenida Guerrerro. In the novel it is called the Avenida de la Revolución. It was not until after I left Cuernavaca in 1982 that I appreciated the reason for this change. This is not Lowry's homage to Mexico's Independence, but rather another instance of an important motif. Laruelle began, as did this talk, at the casino de la Selva [indicate on map, and trace the path]; then he walked across the fields to the Casa Maximiliano, he crossed the barranca; then walked up the Calle Nicaragua, past his own house, then past the Cortés Palace and Zócalo, to reach the theatre. Later in the day, in Chapter 8, a bus, perhaps the same one that Laruelle sees in Chapter one, a year later, departs from near the Cortés Palace, and makes its way north, past the old market, and the Quo Vadis funeral parlour, which as you can see is on a different street (it seems that Lowry could not resist changing the street maps to include the detail), and finally going past the Casino de la Selva, and so describing a giant circle, a revolution. Or, to put it another way, Laruelle's walk in 1939, one year later, completes the circle begun in 1938, and brings the book to its conclusion. As I must this talk. Thank you.

Chris Ackerley, Otago University, New Zelanda, 2002