Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, a posthumously published collection of short stories and novellas, is, along with the novel October Ferry to Gabriola, British-born Malcolm Lowry's contribution to Canadian literature. Lowry's name, of course, is synonymous with his singular, doom-ridden masterpiece of 1930s Mexico, Under the Volcano, but much of his later work was written in and about his adopted home of Canada. Like all of Lowry's lesser-known works, Hear Us O Lord is an uneven book, sometimes great, sometimes embarrassingly bad.
Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place is dominated by two particularly compelling novellas. "Through the Panama," a drunken, meditative journal of a voyage from Vancouver to Europe, revisits territory made familiar by Under the Volcano and is haunted by spectres from Lowry's earlier work. Lowry's combines his shipboard journal with "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," resulting in a bizarre accumulation of artistic rumination, gallows humour, and dread. "Through the Panama" also contains one of the most brilliant--and damning--paragraphs on Canada ever written, defining a Canadian as, among other things, "a conservationist divided against himself."
The other novella, "The Forest Path to the Spring" was, according to Lowry's editors, intended to serve as a coda to his oeuvre, and is among his most direct and optimistic works. The story, which Lowry dedicated to his wife, Margerie, presents a clear and almost sentimental picture of their life in British Columbia. While analogies that call this story the Paradiso to Under the Volcano's Inferno are overly simplistic, "The Forest Path" does function as a counterpoint to the Mexican hell of Lowry's one great work. Fans of Under the Volcano who have never attempted to read more of Lowry's work would do well to seek out Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place. --Jack Illingworth