full PATRICK VICTOR MARTINDALE WHITE (b. May 28, 1912, London, Eng.--d.
Sept. 30, 1990, Sydney, N.S.W., Australia), Australian novelist and playwright
who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973.
White was born in London while his parents were there on a visit, and he returned to England (after 12 years in Australia) for schooling. He then worked for a time at his father's sheep ranch in Australia before returning to study modern languages at King's College, Cambridge. By the time he served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, he had already published some early work, traveled extensively, and been involved with the theatre. After 1945 he returned to Australia, but also lived intermittently in England and in the United States.
first novel, Happy Valley (1939), was set in New South Wales and showed
the influence of D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. The material of White's
later novels is distinctly Australian, but his treatment of it has a largeness
of vision not limited to any one country or period. White saw Australia
as a country in a highly volatile process of growth and self-definition,
and his novels explore the possibilities of savagery to be found within
such a context. His conception of Australia reflected in The Tree of Man
(1955), Voss (1957), Riders in the Chariot (1961), The Solid Mandala (1966),
and The Twyborn Affair (1979) is the product of an individual, critical,
poetic imagination. His style is dense with myth, symbol, and allegory.
His deepest concern is for man's sense of isolation and his search for meaning.
White wrote plays, including The Season at Sarsaparilla (produced 1962; published in Four Plays, 1965), Night on Bald Mountain (produced 1964), and Signal Driver (1982); short stories; the autobiographical Flaws in the Glass (1981); a screenplay; and a book of poems.
White's life and works are discussed in John A. Weigel, Patrick White (1983); and David Marr, Patrick White (1991). Critical studies include Carolyn Jane Bliss, Patrick White's Fiction (1986); David J. Tacey, Patrick White, Fiction, and the Unconscious (1988); Peter Wolfe (compiler), Critical Essays on Patrick White (1990), which includes three interviews with the author; and Mark Williams, Patrick White (1993).