Malcolm Lowry

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Clarence Malcolm Lowry (28 July 1909 – 26 June 1957) was a British poet and novelist who was best known for his novel, Under the Volcano, which was voted #11 in the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list.



Lowry was born in New Brighton, in the English county of Cheshire (now Merseyside), and was educated at The Leys School and St Catharine's College, Cambridge. By the time he graduated in 1931, the twin obsessions which would dominate his life — alcohol and literature — were firmly in place. Lowry was already well travelled, having sailed to the Far East as a deck hand on the Pyrrhus between school and university and made visits to America and Germany between terms. After Cambridge, Lowry lived briefly in London, existing on the fringes of the vibrant Thirties literary scene and meeting Dylan Thomas, among others. Next, he moved to France, where he married his first wife, Jan Gabrial, in 1934. Theirs was a turbulent union, and, after an estrangement, Lowry followed her to New York (where he entered Bellevue Hospital in 1936 following an alcohol-induced breakdown) and then to Hollywood, where he tried screenwriting.

The couple moved to the Mexican city of Cuernavaca in late 1936, in a final attempt to salvage their marriage. They failed, however, and in late 1937, Lowry, alone in Oaxaca, entered another period of dark alcoholic excess, culminating in his being deported from the country. In 1939, he moved to Canada, and the following year he married his second wife, actress and writer Margerie Bonner. The couple lived and wrote in a squatter's shack on the beach near Dollarton in British Columbia, north of Vancouver. Margerie was an entirely positive influence, editing Lowry's work skillfully and making sure that he ate as well as drank (she drank too). The couple travelled to Europe, America and the Caribbean, and while Lowry continued to drink heavily, this seems to have been a relatively peaceful and productive period. It would last until 1954, when a final nomadic period ensued, embracing New York, London and other places.

Lowry died in the village of Ripe, East Sussex, where he was living with his wife. Certainly alcohol, and possibly an overdose of sleeping pills, contributed to what the coroner recorded as "death by misadventure."

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