1973 : Patrick White

1973 : Patrick White

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“for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature”



May 28, 1912

Place of birth


Knightsbridge, London, UK



September 30, 1990

Place of death


Sydney, Australia



Novelist, Short-story writer, Poet, Essayist




Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1973


Born in London while their parents are going to find a season in Europe. When he was six months old, her parents returned to Australia and settled in Sydney, where his father-farmer-rancher and had to meet a shared ownership, along with three other siblings. He had a sickly childhood asthma caused only attended the school of their city and sporadic visits to Sydney were very mild because of the violent flare-ups that were little more than isolated in the Blue Montains. When I was thirteen years his parents sent him gives a school in Cheltenham, England where he spends four years in which it happened, according to the same, a miserable life as a settler in an English school. When he was sixteen years with her parents traveled to Europe, including Scandinavia, Norway and Switzerland particularly impressed that, while found to Ibsen and Strinnderg. Later he moved to King’s College, Cambridge, where he discovered literature, French and German literature. During the holidays visiting France and Germany to practice languages. After finishing his studies decides to move to London and become a writer thanks to her father gives money to survive while trying to write. In 1939 in London published her first novel Happy Valley (Happy Valley), which was well received by critics, which makes White sits finally become a writer. He traveled to New York hoping to repeat their success, and toured several publishers who do not accept his work until he finally accepted Viking Press take it as an author. While traveling between London and New York gets to write his second novel The living and the dead (The life and death), but so hastily. In 1940, during World War II was commissioned as an Official Intelligence of the RAF (Royal Air Force, Royal Air Force of Great-Britain-), Middle East and Greece. During this period he met the Greek Manolya Lascaris that will remain as support for their life and work and with which he returns to Australia after the war. About 1951 began to write The tree of man, who had an excellent reception in England and the United States, but was greeted with scorn by critics in Australia. His novels are his most remarkable period Australian: The tree of a man (1955), Voss (1957): The car of the elect (1961), The areas of the Mandala (1966), The vivisector (1970), Downtown Storm (1973) and A fringe of leaves (1976). It is also the author of dramatic works (Night at the Monte Pelado, 1962; Big toys, 1977; Twyborn affair, 1979; and Netherwood, 1983), stories (The burnt ones, 1964; Tha Cockatoo, 1974), film scripts and the autobiography, Self Portrait: cracks in the mirror (1981). In 1973 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and became the first Australian who was granted the award. With the money received by the Nobel Prize for Literature Awards were created Literary Patrick White to boost the development of Australian literature. The committee has been instructed to give precedence to authors whose writing has not yet received due recognition. Some of the winners were Christina Stead, Randolph Stow, Thea Astley, and Gerald Murnane. White died on September 30 1990 in Sydney after a long illness.


Works in English:


  • Thirteen Poems / under the pseudonym Patrick Victor Martindale – Sydney : Privately printed, ca. 1929

  • The Ploughman and Other Poems – Sydney : Beacon Press, 1935

  • Poems – Victoria, B.C. : Soft Press, 1974


  • Happy Valley – London : Harrap, 1939

  • The Living and the Dead – London : Routledge, 1941

  • The Aunt’s Story – London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1948

  • The Tree of Man – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1956

  • Voss – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1957

  • Riders in the Chariot – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1961

  • The Solid Mandala – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1966

  • The Vivisector – London : Cape, 1970

  • The Eye of the Storm – London : Cape, 1973

  • A Fringe of Leaves – London : Cape, 1976

  • The Twyborn Affair – London : Cape, 1979

  • Memoirs of Many in One / as Alex Xenophon Demirjian Gray, edited by Patrick White – London : Cape, 1986

Short Stories:

  • The Burnt Ones – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1964

  • The Cockatoos : Shorter Novels and Stories – London : Cape, 1974

  • The Night the Prowler : Short Story and Screenplay – London : Cape, 1978

  • Three Uneasy Pieces – Melbourne : Pascoe, 1987


  • Four Plays – London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1965 – Comprises The Ham Funeral, The Season at Sarsaparilla, A Cheery Soul, and Night on Bald Mountain – Republished as Collected Plays, volume 1

  • Big Toys – Sydney : Currency Press, 1978

  • Netherwood – Sydney : Currency Press, 1983

  • Signal Driver : aMorality Play for the Times – Sydney : Currency Press, 1983

  • Collected Plays – 2 vol – Sydney : Currency Press, 1985, 1994


  • Flaws in the Glass : a Self-Portrait. – London : Cape, 1981

  • Patrick White Speaks / edited by Paul Brennan and Christine Flynn. – Sydney : Primavera Press, 1989

  • Letters / David Marr, ed.. – Sydney : Random House, 1994

Literature (a selection):

  • Argyle, Barry, Patrick White – Edinburgh : Oliver and Boyd, 1967

  • Ten Essays on Patrick White : Selected from Southerly (1964-67) – Sydney : Angus and Robertson, 1970

  • Lawson, Alan, Patrick White – Melbourne : Oxford Univ. Press, 1974

  • Beatson, Peter, The Eye in the Mandala : Patrick White : a Vision of Man and God – London : Elek, 1976

  • Kiernan, Brian, Patrick White – London : Macmillan, 1980

  • Wolfe, Peter, Laden Choirs : the Fiction of Patrick White – Lexington, Ky. : University Press of Kentucky, cop. 1983

  • Heltay, Hilary, The Articles and the Novelist : Reference Conventions and Reader Manipulation in Patrick White’s Creation of Fictional Worlds – Tubingen : Narr, 1983

  • Berg, Mari-Ann, Aspects of Time, Ageing and Old Age in the Novels of Patrick White, 1939-1979 – Goteborg : Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1983

  • Hansson, Karin, The Warped Universe : a Study of Imagery and Structure in Seven Novels by Patrick White – Malmo : LiberForlag/Gleerup, 1984

  • Burman, Beyla, The World in Patrick White’s The Vivisector : an Interpretation – Stockholm : Univ. of Stockholm, 1984

  • Marr, David, Patrick White : a Life – London : Cape, 1991


1973: Nobel Prize in Literature.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Artur Lundkvist, of the Swedish Academy.

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year’s Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded by the Swedish Academy to the Australian Patrick White. In the – as always – brief citation, mention is made of “his epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature”. These words have been somewhat misunderstood in certain quarters. They are only intended to emphasize the prominent position occupied by Patrick White in the literature of his country: they should not be taken to deny the existence of an important body of Australian literature apart from his writings.

In fact a long succession of authors have endowed Australian literature with an independence and a character which are unmistakably Australian and by virtue of which that literature has long deserved to be regarded in the eyes of the world as something more than an extension of the English tradition. It will be sufficient here to mention such names as Henry Lawson and Henry Handel Richardson. Lawson was the son of an immigrant Norwegian seaman by the name of Larsen, and in his short stories he gave authentic expression to various types of down-to-earth Australian experience. The authoress writing under the name of Henry Handel Richardson achieved in her most important sequence of novels an authentic and grandiose memorial to her father as the exponent of a lingering British way of life in Australia. Nor should one neglect a number of ambitious but somewhat recondite poets who have heightened Australian awareness and intensified the expressive powers of their language.

For all his originality, there is no denying that the work of Patrick White displays certain typical features of Australian literature generally sharing with it the background, natural history and ways of life of the country. It is also well known that White stands in close relation to advanced Australian pictorial artists such as Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Russel Drysdale, who with the means at their disposal aim at something of the same expressiveness as he sets out to achieve in his writing. Also it is an encouraging sign that White’s influence has gradually made itself felt and that several of the most promising young writers are to be seen as his successors in one way or another.

At the same time, however, it should be emphasized that White is less preoccupied than some of his representative colleagues with things specifically Australian. Although most of his novels are set against an Australian background, his main concern has been to depict people whose problems and living situations are highly individualized, transcending the local and the national. Even in his most typically Australian epic, The Tree of Man, in which an important part is played by nature and society, his principal aim has been to portray his characters from the inside, to make them come alive not so much in terms of typical or atypical settler careers as in the guise of unique individuals. And when he accompanies his explorer Voss into the wilderness of the continent, that wilderness becomes first and foremost a dramatic scenario for the obsession and self-sacrifice of a Nietzschean willpower.

One is struck by the frequency with which Patrick White has made his main characters to a greater or lesser degree outsiders in relation to society: aliens, maladjusted or retarded people and quite often mystics and zealots. It is as though in these people, destitute and vulnerable as they are, he found it easiest to discern the human qualities which fascinate him. This is the case with the characters of Riders in the Chariot, whose alien status or deviation brings them persecution and suffering but who in a mystical way are also the elect, victorious in their misfortune. It is also the case with the two brothers in The Solid Mandala, with their contradictory characters: the well-adjusted but spiritually barren and the clumsy but intuitively percipient. In a way it is also true of the all-pervading principal characters in White’s two latest and largest novels: the artist in The Vivisector and the old woman in The Eye of the Storm. In the artist the creative urge is portrayed as a species of curse, as a result of which his art becomes an all-consuming effort of which both its practitioner and the people close to him become the victims. In the old woman the author has taken the experience of a cyclone as the mystical centre from which an insight radiates to shed light on her life, with its many misadventures, right up to the moment of her death.

Patrick White is a rather difficult author not only because of his special ideas and problems but also perhaps no less due to his unusual combination of epic and poetic qualities. In his broad narrative he uses a highly compressed language, a verbal art worked out to the last detail and constantly aiming for a maximum of expressive effect, a relentless intensification or a subtle penetration. Here beauty and truth are closely allied or completely fused together: a beauty radiating light and life, evoking the poetry inherent in things, in nature and in all manner of phenomena, and truth which exposes and liberates, even though at first it may seem repugnant or frightening.

Patrick White is a social critic mainly through his depiction of human beings, as befits a true novelist. He is first and foremost a bold psychological explorer, at the same time as he readily refers to ideological views of life or mystical convictions to elicit the support and the uplifting message which they have to offer. His relationship to himself, like his relationship to his fellow beings, is complex and full of contradictions. Exalted demands are thrown into sharp relief against emphatic denials. Passion and longing are confronted by a distinct puritanism. In contradistinction to what may be pride in himself he glorifies humility and humiliation, a persistent feeling of guilt that demands atonement and sacrifice. He is constantly assailed by doubts concerning the capacity of thought and art, even though he is indefatigable in his high-minded pursuit of both these things.

Patrick White’s literary art has spread his fame throughout the world and he now ranks as Australia’s foremost representative in his field. His creative work, performed in solitude and doubtless in the teeth of considerable opposition, in various kinds of adversity, has gradually yielded lasting and progressively more widely acknowledged results, in spite of the doubts he himself may have had concerning the value of his efforts. The controversial side of Patrick White is connected with the extreme tension of his self-expression, with his assault on the most difficult problems: the very qualities that constitute his indisputable greatness. Without those qualities he would be unable to bestow the consolation now present in the very midst of his gloom: the conviction that there must be something more worth living for than our onward rushing civilization seems to offer.

The Swedish Academy regrets that Patrick White is not here to-day. But as his representative we greet one of his best friends, the excellent Australian artist Sidney Nolan. And now I beg you, Mr. Nolan, to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded to Patrick White, from the hands of His Majesty the King.

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