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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid (1968) by Malcolm Lowry


English author Malcolm Lowry spent time in Los Angeles, Vancouver and of course, Mexico.
Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid (1968)
 by  Malcolm Lowry

  Malcolm Lowry is the end point of the fascination of English novelists with "Old Mexico."  Start with The Plumed Serpent, written by D.H. Lawrence and published in 1926.   Jump ahead to Graham Greene's,  The Power and the Glory, published in 1940.   Lowry's own Under the Volcano was the exclamation point on the end of this relationship between artist and subject.  Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid is Lowry's unfinished roman a clef about a return to the environs of Under the Volcano by a thinly veiled Lowry substitute.  The Author/narrator of Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid is the author of a differently titled Under the Volcano.

    Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid is interesting only to the extent that one agrees with the statement that Under the Volcano is one of the top novels of the 20th century.  I agree with that statement, and I thought Dark as the Grave was interesting.  Unlike the carefully layered symbolism of Under the Volcano, Dark as the Grave is an impressionistic affair.  It's unclear at times whether Lowry is doing anything except changing the names from a diary entry or letter to a friend back home.

  Like Under the Volcano, Dark as the Grave is a romantic/horrifying depiction of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.   I can't name any other work of fiction that takes place there.   As of this point in the 1001 Books project, I haven't read a single work by a Mexican author, while South America has four already(Lispector, Vargas-Llosa, Garcia Marquez, Borges.)  It's really remarkable to think that English authors were using Mexico as a passive location for their fictional exploits for a half century before any Mexcian novelist made an impression in the international marketplace.  It's artistic imperialism, is what it is.

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