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the Complete Review

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Patrick White
at the
complete review:


biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Biographical

Name: Patrick WHITE
Nationality: Australian
Born: 28 May 1912, London, England
Died: 30 September 1990, Sydney, Australia
Awards: Nobel Prize, 1973
Miles Franklin Award, 1958, 1962

  • B.A., King's College, Cambridge (1935)
  • Intelligence Officer in the R.A.F. during World War II

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Bibliography

Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

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Quotes

What others have to
say about
Patrick White:

  • "Modern novels have become part of the do-it-yourself business, and they come in a very small number of standard kits. (...) In this wilderness cries the voice of Patrick White, Australian extraordinary, who has quite other, more austere and indeed prophetic ambitions. (...) (H)is failures are certainly the equivalent, and perhaps the measure, of other men's success." - David Pryce-Jones, The New York Review of Books (8/11/1970)

  • "Patrick White is a strongly individual, richly gifted, original and highly significant writer whose powers are remarkable and whose achievement is large. His art is dense, poetic, and image-ridden. It is always a substantial and genuine thing. At its finest it is one which goes beyond an art of mere appearances to one of mysterious actuality." - William Walsh, in Patrick White's Fiction (1977)

  • "White's corpus deals, in every style from farce to tragedy, with a small number of themes but a vast number of characters. He has constructed a continuous literary protest against materialism and the dullness of realism." - Ken Goodwin, in A History of Australian Literature (1986)

  • "It continues to scandalize me that cultivated English-language readers exist, in Britain and America, who have never read White and who don't realize that those who have taken the trouble to do so are inclined to rank him with Nabokov or Beckett -- or indeed Faulkner." - Peter Craven, Times Literary Supplement (14/5/2004)

  • "Readers who want to explore the difficult, uneven terrain of White’s novels should, however, begin with the masterpieces of his mid-career, The Vivisector and The Eye of the Storm. These are thunderingly powerful, full of emotional depth and grandeur, epigrammatic and ironic, with brilliant scrutiny of human character and motives. Their intermittent bursts of livid misanthropy come like an asthmatic’s rasping spasms." - Richard Davenport-Hines, The Spectator (31/3/2012)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

    Pros:
  • Superb writing, stylistically very impressive
  • Big themes, comprehensively tackled
  • Rivetting stories

    Cons:
  • A very dense and heavy style, requiring both attention and effort on the part of the reader
  • The stories are not necessarily fast-paced: often relatively little happens -- though White can surprise you
  • With few exceptions his books are dark and sombre (though there is a subtle humour throughout)
  • Almost all his books are long

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the complete review's Opinion

     Patrick White is one of the major English-language writers of the second half of the twentieth century, and still the grand old master of Australian literature. His strong narrative voice and his wrenching tales make him an always fascinating read. White's books evolved from the very traditional to, ultimately, the very experimental. Even in his early work he is resolutely modern, trying to do more with fiction than most novelists care or dare to.
     His novels are deceptive, with their weight and their stories which are frequently placed earlier in this century -- or in the last. White wrestles with the profound questions of our age, never opting for the easy answers (there are no "happy endings" or even truly positive resolutions in his work). He gives the reader food for thought -- often, it seems, too much for comfort.
     His Australia may not be the true Australia (he always got a lot of flack for his portrayal of his homeland), but it serves his fiction extremely well in novels such as Voss, A Fringe of Leaves, Riders in the Chariot, and The Eye of the Storm. Make-believe or not (we think: not) it is a very real place, foreign and apart from the general locales of modern fiction but just as useful and ably serving his purposes.
     More than anything White is a pleasure to read. His style -- careful, solid, but also very daring -- is captivating, and the reader can never be certain of what will come next. Willing to learn, adapt, and experiment, White's work continued to evolve, peaking not once but several times.
     An eminently worthy Nobel laureate, he deserves a large audience. He is a demanding writer, but worth the effort.

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Links

Patrick White: Patrick White's Books at the complete review: Other books of interest under review:

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