Malcolm Lowry

Malcolm Lowry

About Malcolm Lowry

Malcolm Lowry (July 28, 1909, New Brighton, England – June 27, 1957, Chalvington with Ripe, Sussex) was a British poet and novelist. Very early fascinated by the sea, this son of a rich cotton broker undertook at the age of eighteen (from May to October 1927) a cruise which took him to the Far East. Hired as a simple sailor, he gleaned the materials for a first novel, Ultramarine, which he managed to publish in 1933. He spent the summer of 1929 in New England with the poet and novelist Conrad Aiken, who would remain a determining influence. He returned to England in the fall to enter Cambridge University. The suicide of a student marks him there to the point that he will integrate the incident into the plot of October Ferry to Gabriola more than twenty years later.
This taste for travel, will take him to France, the United States, Mexico and Canada; but his greatest adventure will be that of his novel Under the Volcano (Under the Volcano, 1947). He began to work on it in Mexico in 1936, but he modified it for ten years. In 1941, the first version was refused by all publishers; Lowry rewrote it in Canada, but lost the manuscript in a bar; the third version perished in the fire of his house, and it was the fourth version which would be published both in the United States and in England in 1947. During a trip to Granada (Spain), he met Jan Gabrial, a little-known American actress and novelist, who would become his wife and the heroine Yvonne of his novel Under the Volcano.
In 1952, due to the bookstore success of his novel Under the Volcano, the publishing houses Harcourt Brace, then Random House offered Lowry the chance to sign a contract for the publication of the vast cycle of novels entitled The Voyage That Never Ends which he has in the meantime started writing. Throughout the 1950s, Lowry pursued intense literary activity; he notably composed three novels, The Ordeal of Sigbjørn Wilderness, Dark as the Grave where my Friend is Laid and October Ferry to Gabriola (these last two books were published posthumously in 1968 and 1970; The Ordeal of Sigbjørn Wilderness remains unpublished to this day). Nevertheless, Lowry was unable to complete any of these manuscripts, which led Random House to suspend his contract in January 1954. Faced with serious financial difficulties, victim of increasingly worrying health problems largely caused by the alcohol abuse, and haunted by the fear of never being able to reproduce the success of his novel Under the Volcano, Lowry ended his life in a semi-wandering: he left Dollarton for good in August 1954 and went successively to New York, Sicily, London and the Lake District where he stayed in the spring of 1957. He died on June 27 of the same year in the village of Ripe, in East Sussex, following an overdose of sleeping pills taken while intoxicated.
As a poet, the scholar and poet Earle Birney edited Selected Poems of Malcolm Lowry in 1962. Birney also collaborated with Lowry's widow in editing the novella Lunar Caustic (1968) for re-publication.

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