I saw Lowry only once, that time thirteen years ago, when as an unknown author he arrived in New York as a kind of herald for a novel he had finally finished. Between the man and his art falls the shadow, but if there is an exception, it was Lowry and his Under the Volcano. There was no space between them, no room for a shadow. The identical pressures were in both, the same unrelenting intensity.

Had I known a more fruitless and tormented time than my hours with Lowry? I don’t think so. The mask he wore revealed nothing and told all. One needed only to recall the two brothers in the novel, the two halves of Lowry, to guess what wildness, melancholy, passion, hopelessness, tore him from within. The mask, the unblinking eyes, were a prerequisite for survival, but it was impossible for the mask to stay in place for long. Nearly finished novels were burned up in fires whose beginnings one didn’t want to know about. Then the mask came off permanently, three years ago: death by “misadventure” it was called.