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Patrick White

1912 – 1990

Patrick White (1912–1990), acknowledged as Australia’s pre-eminent novelist of the 20th century, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973 for The Eye of the Storm, ‘for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature’. He established the Patrick White Award, an annual literary prize, with his Nobel Prize funds.

White was born in London to a family of Hunter River graziers and spent his youth between England and Australia, at one point returning from study abroad to work as a jackaroo. At Kings College Cambridge he studied French and German languages and literature; the experience of the Australian landscape and European literature and thought were to become major sources of influence in White’s writing.

After a spell as an intelligence officer in North Africa during the Second World War, he returned to Australian with his partner, Manoly Lascaris. The two men were partners for fifty years, while White’s friendships with many others were turbulent and often cruelly curtailed.

White’s novels include The Aunt’s Story, The Tree of Man, Voss, Riders in the Chariot, The Vivisector, The Eye of the Storm and The Twyborn Affair. During the 1970s, becoming increasingly depressed at Australians’ complacency and superficiality, White spoke out on various political issues. David Marr’s superb biography of White was published in 1991. In 2012, the centenary of White’s birth was celebrated with a new publication of his first novel Happy Valley and the publication of an unfinished work, Hanging Garden.

Updated 2018