Malcolm Lowry the Russian Connection


In Under the Volcano (1947) Malcolm Lowry (1909-57) presents us with a Faustian image of a British ex-Consul tormented by inner turmoil between his divided self and the socio-political environment which has alienated him. A would-be visionary, Geoffrey Firmin undergoes a shamanic journey to exorcise the phantoms of his past by striving towards a higher state of intuitive consciousness. In the odyssey into his cinematic, psychogeographic imagination, he makes profound, psychological connections between current international events plaguing a humanity at war with itself and the spiritual dimensions of his reflective mind. In his synergic quest for reconciliation, he is profoundly affected – as was Lowry himself - by an interdisciplinary heritage moulded by the giants of the Golden Age of Russian literature at the threshold of a revolutionary era. Both Under the Volcano and Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid (1968) refer to Russian writers, film directors, thinkers, and politicians. We are immersed into the spiritual worlds of Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Lev Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, and Sergei Eisenstein. Then we are thrust into the contemporary arena of war and revolution by allusions to Karl Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler. Despite numerous references to Russian writers in Lowry’s collected letters, very little has been published on their influences, apart from a couple of articles touching on Gogol. This paper aims to correct this imbalance by investigating Lowry’s Russian connection in the context of his shamanic visions.

Author Information
Nigel H. Foxcroft, University of Brighton, UK

Paper Information
Conference: NACAH2014
Stream: Humanities - Literature/Literary Studies*

This paper is part of the NACAH2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon