Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: White, Patrick Victor Martindale
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Australian writer. He did more than any other to put Australian literature on the international map. His partly allegorical novels explore the lives of early settlers in Australia and often deal with misfits or inarticulate people. They include The Aunt's Story (1948), written during his voyage back to Australia, The Tree of Man (1955), Voss (1957), based on the ill-fated 19th-century explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, and Riders in the Chariot (1961), exploring suburban life. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. White became a fervent republican after the dismissal of the Gough Whitlam government in 1975, returning his Order of Australia in 1976, and supported conservation causes in his later years.

White, a member of an established Australian pastoralist family, was born in London and educated in Australia and England. After graduating from Cambridge he lived and wrote in London and in 1940 joined the RAF as an intelligence officer. In the 1940s he returned to settle in Australia. The Tree of Man follows the lives of a pioneering family from the 1880s to the 1930s. Among his other novels are The Vivisector (1970), The Eye of the Storm (1973), The Twyborn Affair (1979), and his last work, Memoirs of Many in One (1986). As well as a novelist, he was a playwright, short-story writer, and poet. He used the Nobel Prize money to establish a literary award for Australian writers deserving greater recognition. His autobiography, Flaws in the Glass, appeared in 1981.

White spent his childhood in the Australian countryside. ‘Whatever has come since,’ he said of this period, ‘I feel that the influences of this strange, dead landscape of Australia predominate’. He studied and worked in Australia and England, alternating his residency between the two countries, travelling extensively in Europe when based in England. His first novel Happy Valley (1939), won the Australian Literature Society's gold medal. His early novels were compared to James Joyce by critics who, though sometimes finding him difficult to read, recognized his visionary power and willingness to deviate or take risks. In 1940 he joined the Royal Air Force and served as an intelligence agent in Sudan and Egypt. He returned to Australia in 1945, where he resumed his writing and continued to live until his death.


White, Patrick Victor Martindale

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article White, Patrick (1912-90)
Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English

Australian novelist, dramatist Born in London during one of his parents’ periodic visits to Europe, Patrick White is the only Australian writer...

Full text Article White, Patrick (1912 - 1990)
The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English

The son of a wealthy landowning family, he was born in London of Australian parents and educated at Cheltenham College and...

Full text Article White, Patrick (1912 - 1990)
The Bloomsbury Dictionary of English Literature

Born in London, educated in Australia, and at Cheltenham College and Cambridge University. He travelled widely in Europe and the...

See more from Credo