Lost Malcolm Lowry book published for the first time

Malcolm Lowry lost his 1,000-page manuscript in a house fire; an early draft of "In Ballast to the White Sea" has been published for the first time.
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Malcolm Lowry was living on the coast of British Columbia in 1944 when his cabin caught fire and burned to the ground -- very bad news for a writer. While attempting to rescue his manuscripts, Lowry was burned by a falling log. What would become his most famous book, “Under the Volcano,” was saved; another manuscript, the 1,000-page “In Ballast to the White Sea.” was not. When Lowry died in 1957, he hadn’t been able to re-create it.

But now a version of that book has been published in Canada and the UK.

An early copy of the manuscript had been kept, safely and secretly, by Lowry’s first wife Jan Gabrial. The Guardian reports that in 2000, Gabrial revealed that her family had long had an early copy of the manuscript, and after she died it was given to the N.Y. Public Library.

Up until now, that manuscript has only been accessed by about a dozen people, according to publisher University of Ottawa Press. The newly published “In Ballast to the White Sea” is a scholarly edition, with biographical notes and annotations.


Lowry had thought of three of his works in progress -- “Under the Volcano,” “Swinging the Maelstrom,” and “In Ballast to the White Sea” -- as parallels to Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. Lowry only lived to see “Under the Volcano” published. “Swinging the Maelstrom” was published posthumously and “In Ballast to the White Sea” was thought lost.

About the book, the University of Ottawa Press writes, “‘In Ballast to the White Sea’ is Malcolm Lowry’s most ambitious work of the mid-1930s. Inspired by his life experience, the novel recounts the story of a Cambridge undergraduate who aspires to be a writer but has come to believe that both his book and, in a sense, his life have already been ‘written.’" 

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