Bluecoat to stage world launch of Malcolm Lowry novel during annual celebration of the author of Under the Volcano

Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, is to host the international launch of an earlier version of Merseyside-born writer Malcolm Lowry’s acclaimed book, Under the Volcano, which is regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.

Often viewed as a prototype for Lowry’s 1947 masterpiece, this is the first time that the 1940 draft has been properly considered in terms of the writer’s earlier works – in particular In Ballast to the White Sea – while being fully critically edited.

A classic of modernist literature, Under the Volcano is set in the shadow of twin volcanoes in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, and revolves around the final day in the life of a drunken British consul on the eve of World War Two.

The 1940 version of the novel was shown to 13 publishers in New York before being withdrawn, by which time Lowry was already working on what was to become the internationally renowned 1947 version. Consequently, the earlier version remained unpublished and largely unrecognized as a work in its own right.

Now Lowry experts Miguel Mota and Paul Tiessen have joined forces with peers Chris Ackerley, David Large, Vik Doyen and Patrick A. McCarthy, to produce The 1940 Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry: A Critical Edition, published by University of Ottawa Press.

The book will be launched in Liverpool on October 31 at Bluecoat’s The Lowry Lounge, an annual day-long programme of walks, talks, films, discussions and readings to mark the achievements of one of Merseyside’s greatest sons.

The free launch event will take place at 5pm, and follows a busy Lounge programme, which this year is entitled The 19th Hole and has a golfing theme, a reflection of Lowry’s passion for the sport. It will include a coach tour of the Wirral, his birthplace, and a guided walk round his childhood haunts including several golf courses, and a screening of Outward Bound, the atmospheric 1930 film that inspired the writer.

At the launch Vik Doyen, who has written a foreword to the book, will introduce the new edition and talk about the process of bringing it to publication.

Bryan Biggs, Bluecoat’s Artistic Director and co-founder of the annual Lowry Lounge event, said: “We are delighted that the University of Ottawa Press have asked us to launch this important work, following our successful launch last year of Lowry’s ‘lost’ novel In Ballast to the White Sea, which UOP also published. I know that the event will be of interest to Lowry enthusiasts as well as, I hope, to people new to him and who are intrigued by one of Merseyside’s greatest, most colourful, complex and original writers.”

Dean Irvine, series editor of the University of Ottawa Press’ Canadian Literature Collection, said: “Malcolm Lowry’s 1940 Under the Volcano is a major contribution to international modernist scholarship. It is the final installment in the University of Ottawa Press’s triptych of Lowry’s fiction, published in critical editions carefully prepared by a global team of eminent textual and literary scholars. We are immensely proud to launch it among Lowry aficionados, near Lowry’s birth place, bringing back home the genius that he brought to Canada and the world.”


  • The 1940 Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry: A Critical Edition is published by Ottawa University Press and edited and introduced by Miguel Mota and Paul Tiessen, with annotations by Chris Ackerley and David Large and a foreword by Vik Doyen and Patrick A. McCarthy. 978-0-7766-2315-3 paperback £19.99
  • Tickets for the Lowry Lounge coach and film event are £10 (limited availability), but the book launch is free. Go to for more information.


Related Posts

Jerry Kaye - Look good, feel good
Follow Artlyst on Instagram
Artlyst Benefit screen prints by Simon Patterson. Exclusive Editions
Open Source Salon with Hauser and Wirth - A new monthly discussion group
Advertise your next show on Artlyst from £200 per week