Under the Volcano


Part Two of my real-time review continued from HERE

My thoughts will appear in the thought stream below as I continue to read this book…

17 responses to “Under the Volcano

  1. Chapter 7

    I cannot believe the first half of this chapter. It is Hellcome, as I myself drink too much wine while reading it and now writing about it.
    GF the Consul, Hugh, Yvonne go with Laruelle to Laruelle’s house. Overlooking the volcanos and the fiesta. GF is scolded for drinking too much, as the relationships ratchet into vaguebook shapes, as we get more of a handle on the hawser of this text and its people. We are in Gf’s head again. This is madness not so much incarnate as hyper-extrapolated by Thomas-Mannish literature. Blake playing golf with Shelley and Baudelaire. I can only do justice to this text by showing below some major quotes from the this chapter’s text so far, separate from each other in the novel itself but now presented below together. The ultimate hawling.

    [Quote] The angels, carved out of pink stone, knelt facing one another in profile against the sky across the intervening crenels, while behind, upon corresponding merlons at the far side, sat solemnly two nameless objects like marzipan cannonballs, evidently constructed from the same material.

    and followed the others obliquely through it to a balcony at the back, into a view of sun-filled valleys and volcanoes, and cloud shadows wheeling across the plain.

    But the cries and music of the fair reached them at this moment clearly.

    But he felt his mind divide and rise, like the two halves of a counterpoised draw-bridge, ticking, to permit passage of these noisome thoughts.

    Books (among which he did not see his Elizabethan plays) were strewn all over the floor and on the side of the studio couch nearest the wall, were stacked, as by some half-repenting poltergeist, almost to the ceiling.

    … Plock. The Golgotha Hole. High up, an eagle drove downwind in one. It had shown lack of imagination to build the local course back up there, remote from the barranca. Golf = gouffre = gulf.

    ‘Have you gone mad?’ M. Laruelle exclaimed at last. ‘Am I to understand that your wife has come back to you, something I have seen you praying and howling for under the table – really under the table … And that you treat her indifferently as this, and still continue only to care where the next drink’s coming from?’
    To this unanswerable and staggering injustice the Consul had no word; he reached for his cocktail, he held it, smelt it: but somewhere, where it would do little good, a hawser did not give way: he did not drink; he almost smiled pleasantly at M. Laruelle. You might as well start now as later, refusing the drinks. You might as well start now; as later. Later.

    But the abominable impact on his whole being at this moment of the fact that that hideously elongated cucumiform bundle of blue nerves and gills below the steaming un-selfconscious stomach had sought its pleasure in his wife’s body brought him trembling to his feet. [/Quote]

    SPOILER: GF surreptitiously puts Y’s year old postcard under Laruelle’s pillow.

    Read up to:-
    “In the street there was now not a breath of wind and they walked a while without speaking, listening to the babel of the fiesta which grew still louder as they approached the town. Street of the Land of Fire. 666.”

  2. “vandals in sandals looking at the murals.”

    We follow from within GF’s head, into the Day of the Dead Fair, watching Hugh and Y enjoying the fair, his relative height with Laruelle who is mixed up in his past as someone else? There are coincidences of meetings with people inside GF’s head, shards of synchronicity, someone pointing with a tennis racket, but who is who? (“was that Hugh, Jacques? Whoever it was had seemed to possess the features of both, alternately.”) (“As he looked it was as though these figures were gathering silently together. Now they had become one figure, one immense, malevolent creature staring back at him.”) (“or perhaps it was Christopher Marlowe, your Faust man, saw the Carthaginians fighting on his big toe-nail.”)

    ‘And you forget what you exclude from this, shall we say, feeling of omniscience. And at night, I imagine, or between drink and drink, which is a sort of night, what you have excluded, as if it resented that exclusion, returns –’

    I know the feeling. The Carrousel at the fair, the carousel in the Quarantined City, and a new Señora Gregorio café? The fizzy Alzheimers as champagne in the QC, the mescal and tequila under the volcano here. His guilt and nightmares. So much to tell you, so many potential spoilers and synchronicities to divulge.
    GF goes on a ride, himself, finally to be cared for by children who return his spilt belongings to him after the wild ride. Umbrella structure ride, a sort of Meccano dreamcatcher cage.

    “There, above him, poised the world, with its people stretching out down to him, about to fall off the road on to his head, or into the sky. 999.”

    Read up to end of chapter 7.

  3. Chapter 8

    “May she be happy. May everything come, somehow, right. May we all be happy. God bless us.”

    “One of the turkeys even looked remarkably like Neville Chamberlain.”

    A most amazing bus journey with all the caricatural trappings, as Geoffrey, Yvonne and Who, yes, Hugh, continue their ‘pleasure’ trip to a destination I have not told you about. I can’t tell you everything. The question is: can I really tell you anything? It’s that kind of book with Wagnerian leitmotifs, such as Hugh’s past experience of Ebro battle in Spanish Civil War and a horse with no. seven on it.
    Oh, by the way, did we glimpse, Whovian-like, from the bus Doctor Vigil and Jacque Laruelle now playing Wimbledon tennis again? I think so. We, as the three-headed head, GeoffreYvonne and Who, as chapter’s leasehold vantage point given us by the freehold author. But who do we trust most?

    “Popocatepelt loomed, pyramidal, to their right, one side beautifully curved as a woman’s breast, the other precipitous, jagged, ferocious.”

    And there is a scene which should be famous in all literature, when the bus stops because of some poor Indian wounded on the road, representing part of this book’s Good Samaritan leitmotif.
    Poignant and amusing.

    “Yet it was not that time stood still. Rather was it time was moving at different speeds, the speed at which the man seemed dying contrasting oddly with the speed at which everybody was finding it impossible to make up their minds.”

    In contrast to children who earlier returned GF’s lost loose change on the ride, there is a brilliantly characterised urban-bum on the bus who is later found to have pinched, without any evident guilt, the poor wayside Indian’s loose change!

    “; like the creatures, perhaps, in Geoff’s dreams: among the stupid props of war’s senseless Titus Andronicus, the horrors that could not even make a good story,”

    Read up to the end of chapter 8

  4. Chapter 9

    “How delicious, how good, to feel oneself, in spite of all the strain and stress of the day, the journey, the bus, and now the crowded rickety grandstand, part of the brilliantly coloured serape of existence, part of the sun, the smells, the laughter!”

    “Muscular hawkers lifted aloft, in one sinewy stretch of the forearm, heavy trays brimmed with multi-coloured fruits.”

    We are now purely in Y’s head. At the pleasure terminus with GF and Hugh – and they attend a bull fight. At first we relate with her and the earlier wounded Indian, a dog she once pitied, her own father (who tried to harness a Hawaiian volcano for its energy), her relationships with GF, Hugh, Laruelle, plus what I shall call her retrocausal ‘Ennovy’ (envoy and/or envy) of her own Hollywood career as Boomp Girl, Oomph Girl, the mixed feelings of her life, loves and career, all symbolised by the mixed feelings of the ambivalent bull itself in the bullfight…

    “The poor old creature seemed now indeed like someone being drawn, lured, into events of which he has no real comprehension, by people with whom he wishes to be friendly, even to play, who entice him by encouraging that wish and by whom, because they really despise and desire to humiliate him, he is finally entangled.”

    Read up to:
    “It was one of those pictures that, even though you have arrived in the middle, grip you with the instant conviction that it is the best film you have ever seen in your life;”

    …Which is a good summary comparison with this whole book …
    As is the equivocal bull, too?

    • “It was one of those pictures that, even though you have arrived in the middle, grip you with the instant conviction that it is the best film you have ever seen in your life; so extraordinarily complete is its realism, that what the story is all about, who the protagonist may be, seems of small account beside the explosion of the particular moment, beside the immediate threat, the identification with the one hunted, the one haunted,…”

  5. “And yet, and yet, it was entirely true, that one had never given up, or ceased to hope, or to try, gropingly, to find a meaning, a pattern, an answer – The bull pulled against the opposing forces of ropes a while longer, then subsided gloomily, swinging his head from side to side with those shuffling sweeps along the ground, into the dust where, temporarily defeated but watchful, he resembled some fantastic insect trapped at the centre of a huge vibrating web …”

    Another astonishing chapter. Intermitted with silences, Y’s futuristic memories — and my earlier mentions of a Dream Archipelago and an Oxymoron — memories as premonitions of her idyllic life with G, a beautiful description of where they will live together, a description intermitted with the real-time bullfights, passages that you will never forget.

    “Nothing in the world is more powerful than one of these sudden strange silences –”

    “…she would stand on their porch looking down over Geoffrey’s work, over his shoulder into the water and see an archipelago, islands of opalescent foam and branches of dead bracken –yet beautiful, beautiful –”

    “‘Es ist vielleicht an ox,’ Hugh muttered. ‘An oxymoron … Wisely foolish.’
    The animal lay supine as before,…”

    SPOILER: And Hugh — as if in a pointless happening, an art installation of bull and man, as backdrop to these future memories of Y about her and GF — jumps and straddles the second bull!!
    A scene to ricochet between your skullwalls.

    Then this chapter’s quiet coda, viz. the wounded Indian brought theatrically on stage as it were with crutches.

    Can there be such a chapter 9 anywhere else in literature?

  6. Chapter 10

    ” – Fool, he was trying to walk along a single line, like a boy on the kerb: clipperty-two clipperty-two: clipperty-three clipperty-three: clipperty-four clipperty-four: clipperty-five clipperty-five: clipperty-six clipperty-six: clipperty-seven; clipperty seven – trains, trains, trains, trains, converging upon him from all sides of the horizon, each wailing for its demon lover.”

    To drink or not to drink.
    We join together within GF’s consular head and feel his various memories, his madness and drunkenness, feel them for ourselves as we ARE him, gathering together some of this book’s earlier shards, some random, some synchronous, some fiction, some truth. We are triangulated by geomantic and semantic coordinates and become entitled to some in block capitals.
    He is in truth sitting in a bar while listening to H and Y in the nearby swimming pool. Then having dinner with them, under the tutelage of Cervantes, the owner of the bar? Not sure but he has books and windmill metaphors.
    But we are drained and bottled away like those towers of champagne glasses I first mentioned in my review of the QC by Everington. But am I growing madder than GF himself? I haven’t been drinking yet today, so it must be the freehold author Lowry who was mad or drunk, or both, when he wrote this chapter.

    “A corpse will be transported by express …
    Oozing alcohol from every pore, the Consul stood at the open door of the Salón Ofelia.”

    That’s the name of this bar-restaurant where GF, Y and H have ended up. Also mention of that child corpse again, a leitmotif I noticed earlier in this book.

    “Onans in garlic soup on egg …”

    “To drink or not to drink. –But without mescal, he imagined, he had forgotten eternity, forgotten their world’s voyage, that the earth was a ship, lashed by the Horn’s tail, doomed never to make her Valparaiso. Or that it was like a golf ball, launched at Hercules’s Butterfly, wildly hooked by a giant out of an asylum window in hell. Or that it was a bus, making its erratic journey to Tomalín and nothing. Or that it was like –whatever it would be shortly, after the next mescal.”

    “…the glasses, a babel of glasses – towering, like the smoke from the train that day – built to the sky, then falling, the glasses toppling and crashing, falling downhill from the Generalife Gardens, the bottles breaking, bottles of Oporto, tinto, blanco, bottles of Pernod, Oxygénée, absinthe, bottles smashing, bottles cast aside, falling with a thud on the ground in parks, under benches, beds, cinema seats, hidden in drawers at Consulates, bottles of Calvados dropped and broken, or bursting into smithereens, tossed into garbage heaps, flung into the sea, the Mediterranean, the Caspian, the Carribbean, bottles floating in the ocean, dead Scotchmen on the Atlantic highlands – and now he saw them, smelt them, all, from the very beginning – bottles, bottles, bottles, and glasses, glasses, glasses, of bitter, of Dubonnet, of Falstaff, Rye, Johnny Walker, Vieux Whisky, blanc Canadien, the apéritifs, the digestifs, the demis, the dobles, the noch ein Herr Obers, the et glas Araks, the tusen taks, the bottles, the bottles, the beautiful bottles of tequila, and the gourds, gourds, gourds, the millions of gourds of beautiful mescal …”

    They talk of climbing Popocatepetl…
    An ambition like reading this book, I suggest.
    Nothing like it this side of Quarantined City or Borne River, I suggest. Whether attenuated or not – as in this book’s description of Chile? Or a giant floating bear like Mord?

    Read up to:-

  7. ‘A Nazi may not be a Fascist, but there’re certainly plenty of them around, Yvonne. Beekeepers, miners, chemists. And keepers of pubs. The pubs themselves of course make ideal headquarters. In the Pilsener Kindl, for instance, in Mexico City –’

    After the geographical coordinates of various places they describe so evocatively, I think I have now learned from the second half of this chapter that there is much wisdom in drunkenness, even in madness, as the characters chew the fat (or drink the bubbles) of politics, religion, Toynbeean history, exploitation of races, free will, Ligottian anti-natalism, the ambiguous art of interference, plus the Wagnerian-type leitmotifs in this plot so far, and the ability to clarify things from a gestalt of seeming madnesses, a dreamcatching of wild connections, making this a seminal work for anyone’s gestalt real-time reviewing.
    Matthew Arnold, Tolstoy, Sir Thomas Browne.
    The Consul transcends drunkenness after a visit to the loo and soars…
    Accuses H and Y of playing ‘titties’ with each other earlier.
    One can only soar alongside the Consul as inspired gestalt of this three-headed monster?
    The colonisation of readers as well as of time’s peoples.

    “The Consul was talking about the Vedic Gods, who were not properly anthropomorphized, whereas Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl … Or were they not?”

    ‘The act of a madman or a drunkard, old bean,’ he said, ‘or of a man labouring under violent excitement seems less free and more inevitable to the one who knows the mental condition of the man who performed the action, and more free and less inevitable to the one who does not know it.’

    “And tomorrow it will be poor little defenceless Latvia. Or Finland. Or Piddledee-dee. Or even Russia. Read history. Go back a thousand years. What is the use of interfering with its worthless stupid course?”

    “And Rousseau – not douanier – knew he was talking nonsense –’”
    (as I said earlier)

    ‘Where are the children I might have wanted? You may suppose I might have wanted them. Drowned. To the accompaniment of the rattling of a thousand douche bags.”

    “Before him the volcanoes, precipitous, seemed to have drawn nearer.”

    Read up to the end of chapter 10.

  8. Chapter 11

    “But in the tragic Indian legend Popocatepetl himself was strangely the dreamer: the fires of his warrior’s love, never extinct in the poet’s heart, burned eternally for Ixtaccihuatl, whom he had no sooner found than lost, and whom he guarded in her endless sleep …”

    We are now inside the head of Y, why?, under this volcanic symbolism and its concomitant thunderstorm, as she seeks, at first with H, who?, the C, her GeoffreYvonne, lost as he was once lost in Mexico City and Granada looking for the right restaurant to meet Y. Little did they know they were the same person, in many ways, a soft titty or breast, the other ferocious, a confused gestalt of two volcanos mentioned earlier. Both lost as one, like the stars in the sky, stars they see as a lost gestalt of a singular astrological force from Aries and back to Aries again. The arrival of the horse leitmotif, light-motif, with the no. 7, as fast or Faust as the beginning returned from the imagined end of a circular zodiac, or a centaur… Consul and Carousel as one? And, like all emergency workers, they run towards mortal danger not away from it. Including the earlier Y dream house now lightning-struck and burning….

    Earlier in this chapter she uncaged a bird to allow its soaring.

    Also the C was there but not there, always there, never there, a gestalt of many selves, Aickman-like in this Flannery O’Connor-like Mexican Gothic, the other side of the trumpeted Jericho wall across America’s south. The C still ordering drinks in another bar with coincidences of previous but now grubby bar bills…

    “the Consul was disappearing round every corner, and going out of every door. A few tables set along the tiled floor outside the bar were deserted, yet here the Consul also sat dimly, rising at their approach.”

    “There is, sometimes in thunder, another person who thinks for you, takes in one’s mental porch furniture, shuts and bolts the mind’s window against what seems less appalling as a threat than as some distortion of celestial privacy, a shattering insanity in heaven, a form of disgrace forbidden mortals to observe too closely:”

    Read up to the end of Chapter 11.

  9. Chapter 12

    “On the wide counter before him were saucers of toothpicks, chillies, lemons, a tumblerful of straws, crossed long spoons in a glass tankard.”

    When eating with the Devil one needs a long spoon. As with this book.

    “He was safe here; this was the place he loved – sanctuary, the paradise of his despair.”

    This paradise is our last bar in this text; we are inside the Carousel’s head, if not inside the Consul’s, a Hellish vision from within of himself and others mocking and mimicking each other, and can we trust our own spinning consciousness of horses, all with no. 7? One horse we spin off to go find Y? As we climb el Popo in the end, Himalayas, Layers of Hymn from Kashmir, as composed by Mozart. Whoring with Maria. Squatting within Duchamp’s pissoir and calling it fountain?

    “He traced mentally the barranca’s circuitous abysmal path back through the country, through shattered mines, to his own garden, then saw himself standing again this morning with Yvonne outside the printer’s shop, gazing at the picture of that other rock,”

    That split rock again, that split volcano. After reading a package of letters in this bar that we should have received before from Y. This text is now ripely poignant with these missed letters and a retrocausality from the first chapter and the long missed letter found in a book of Marlowe’s Faust or Fast. What would have happened in our digital age of lightning strikes of communications between us?

    This is a nightmare of characters all of whom are us.

    Y wrote and hinted the Consul was “gay”, a word used in this book first published ostensibly in 1947. She did. Check it out. Reading this review is only part of the journey for the Wanderer.

    “It was not for nothing the ancients had placed Tartarus under Mt Aetna,”

    A Few Fleas was the boy serving the drinks, drinks we only partially pay for in some strange financial tontine, it seems. Read it and see.

    This book is a Hellish tontine.

    “…he had assumed the blue expression peculiar to a certain type of drunkard, tepid with two drinks grudgingly on credit, gazing out of an empty saloon, an expression that pretends he hopes help, any kind of help, may be on its way, friends, any kind of friends coming to rescue him.”

    “the shock of receiving the letters having in a sense waked him, if only, so to say, from one somnambulism into another; he was drunk, he was sober, he had a hangover; all at once;”

    “for ah, how alike are the groans of love to those of the dying, how alike, those of love, to those of the dying –”

    ‘I learn that the world goes round so I am waiting here for my house to pass by.’

    Am I the Chief of Gardens or Chief of Rostrums? Under false drunken arrest.

    ‘I learn that the world goes round so I am waiting here for my house to pass by.’

    “….those florid people resembling huddled fiends, becoming more like each other, more joined together, more as one fiend, the farther down they hurled into the darkness.”

    It is ‘On Being Blue’ day today. A blue expression above, for example,

    “The Consul produced his blue package of cigarettes with the wings on them: Alas! He raised his head again; no, he was where he was, there was nowhere to fly to. And it was as if a black dog had settled on his back, pressing him to his seat.”

    “The Consul was drinking with these macabre people inextricably.”

    Those people are ourselves. We readers as one. A spinning masque in tontine, till one is left. The Last Samaritan.


  10. “It was not for nothing the ancients had placed Tartarus under Mt Aetna,”
    — From UNDER The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry cross-referenced here:

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