Patrick White was born on 28 May 1912 in Knightsbridge, London, returned to Sydney, Australia when he was only six months old. On the suggestion of a headmaster, he was sent once again to England at Cheltenham College, it was felt as prison due to a limited circle of acquaintances in new surroundings. Occasionally, he had a few chances to reunite with the family. During his stay in England, he studied German and French Literature at King’s College, Cambridge University. He developed the instinct of homosexuality with one of the fellows during first-term of the academic session. His participation in many childhood activities, first visit to a theatre to see the performance of Merchant of Venice at the age of six and dancing for his mother’s friends show his early artistic spirit of the prominent future writer of the age. His some of the notable works are The Tree of Man, Voss and Riders in The Chariot. White doubts over himself after dismissing his works in Australia; critics often devalued his works telling ‘un- Australian’. However, to some extent, the popularity of his novels did not depend on the awards, nominations and critical acclaim. Many a time he has withdrawn the name from the nomination procedure.
Patrick White is considered as one of the greatest English novelists of the 20th century. Although, he won the Nobel Prize in 1973 and other awards for incomparable contributions to the English literature, was not keen to get the prestigious entitles. As for the matter of his best works, the name of some novels come to the mind. The novels The Tree of Man (1955), Voss (1957) and Riders in the Chariot (1961), apart from these, there are some other novels that also come in this line. The Tree of Man, it is a domestic drama, explores the lives of Parker family chronically changing fortunes over many decades. It has presented very lucidly the glimpse of Australian culture, myth and traditional social pattern. The novel is one of three included in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Voss, the fifth novel written based on the experience of a Prussian Explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt who was disappeared during the expedition. The novel is centred on mainly two characters Voss, a German, and Laura, a young Lady. The versatility of the novel does not come from it varied geographical description but from the event, passion, insight and doom. The Riders of the Chariot, the sixth novel, loosely based on mainly four characters and their mystic experience of the Chariot described in the Book of Ezekiel; each one of them shares the same vision. This novel draws the attention of everyday people who show an ignorant and prejudiced reaction to the people who see the infinite, snowballing with fatal consequences.
However, his writing career did not end with the novels, apart from the novels, he has also produced some story collections: The Burnt Ones (1964), The Cockatoos (1974) and Three Uneasy Pieces (1987). He composed the very little verses thirteen in counting. White has a good collection of plays almost more than half dozen of plays: A Cherry Soul (1963), Night on Bald Mountain (1964), Big Boys (1977)…
Patrick White will certainly remain, not only inside the campus corridors, one of the most-read and widely appreciated novelists of the modern era. His contribution to the, not only Australian, English literature will be remembered forever!
compiled and written by Ravi Kumar