Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book 2009_01: Under the Volcano by Malcom Lowry

So, let me just say that this is one of those books that I did not enjoy reading.

The main character, Geoffrey was an alcoholic in love with all that is alcohol. It was so sad, his whole life revolved around how, when and where he was going to get his next drink.

His whole life, wasted, and yet he seemed happy and content with going to the bar at 10 AM and just sitting and drinking. So much time just wasted away.

There was no hope, no striving for a better future. It was a stagnant life and it almost pained me to read about it.

The story was set in southern Mexico, in the 1930s. Geoffrey was an ex-British consulate at a time when the relationship between Mexico and Britain was strained. Mexico had just nationalized many industries, including petroleum, and the Brits had lost a lot in the process.

Similarly, Geoffrey had also lost everything that he once was. His wife, Yvonne had come back to fight for him. He had let her go, but she wasn't quite ready to do the same. She had come back to search for him, the help him get through the haze. She came back on Dia de los Muertos and found a somewhat allie in Hugh, Geoffrey's half-brother.

Hugh was probably the most interesting character to me, although I did feel for Yvonne. Hugh just seemed to embody what life could be, he was always in search for adventure and he had so many stories to tell. He did always seem to regret not having fought in the Spanish Civil war, and I found that interesting about him as well.

As far as Yvonne, I really felt for her. She had lived a life for the benefit of others, her family. When she finally found someone for herself, she lost him to alcohol. I admire that she came back to fight for him, that she wasn't going to give up on her husband. It was a different time, I guess, but I do admire it. I'm not sure what to think about her fling with Hugh, though. Maybe it added another level of despair to the story.

Towards the end, they all travel outside the city and witness a dying Indian by the roadside. Apparently, there was a law that forbade them to even touch an Indian at the time. Supposedly for both of their goods. I found this incredible to believe, the level of racism must have been brutal back then.

I do believe, or want to believe, that the group was going to help the poor man. The arrival of the police stopped them however, and instead they only witnessed another act of cruelty. The cops didn't care, they all turned an eye when someone took the Indian's money. The group was forced to get back on the bus, so they never knew what happened in the end.

The story ends with Geoffrey lost in the city and Yvonne and Hugh looking for him. They were not able to find him in time, however, as he went up against the police after having recognized the Indian's mule (I believe). He finally stands up for the injustice, and looses his life in the process.

Some sources say this book was semi-autobiographical, and in a way, I kind of see it as Lowry's protest against all that is unjust in this world. It was a sad tale and a sad life, but in the end, it makes me appreciate how lucky I truly am.