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This article is taken from PN Review 221, Volume 41 Number 3, January - February 2015.

English Writers in Mexico between the Wars, Part One

Through 'the liteary-perception scrambler'?
Part One: DH Lawrence and his Influence
Simon Carnell
I  Between an alien planet and a state of mind: the English approach

In his book Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars, Paul Fussell writes that ‘Mexico somehow makes Anglo-Saxon authors go all to pieces’, before quoting with approval Jeremy Treglown’s opinion that ‘Somehow the nearer a writer gets to Mexico the more likely he is to be affected by the literary-perception scrambler which Malcolm Lowry helped to engineer and was ruined by’. As an introduction to a brief consideration of works written about post-revolutionary Mexico by D.H. Lawrence, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and Aldous Huxley, between 1923 and 1939, this is curiously back-to-front on Fussell’s part. Lowry’s Under the Volcano was published in 1947, so could hardly have ‘affected’ the other writers in question. It is surely worth noting, too, that Lowry’s novel was precisely that – a work of fiction in which Mexico was filtered through the perceptions of its characters, and in particular through the tequila- and mescal-fuelled febrile consciousness of its main character, Geoffrey Firmin, with his notations of ‘Horrors portioned to a giant nerve!’. Lawrence’s Mornings in Mexico (1927) purports to be a work of non-fiction, as does Huxley’s Beyond the Mexique Bay (1934); Greene’s The Lawless Roads and Waugh’s Robbery Under Law (both 1939) were designed, respectively, as reports upon the persecution of the Catholic priesthood and the expropriation of the British oil industry. And yet reading these works together, along with Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent (1926) and, albeit to a much lesser extent, Greene’s The Power and the Glory (1940), ...

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