from Patrick White: A Life (1991)

Patrick White, Winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature, spent two decades almost continually abroad from the 1920s: school (unhappily) in Britain, a brief return to Australia, then Cambridge, then the beginning of his career as a writer in London, followed by war service with the RAF in the Middle East. After the war he decided to come back to Australia:

The final decision to live in Sydney, which White took in these weeks, was the greatest gamble of his life. War had done little to soften Sydney’s British smugness…As White was deciding to return, Australian actors, journalists, painters, writers, dancers, photographers and musicians were waiting for boats to freedom. The export of talent had been interrupted by the war but now the world – at least London and New York – was open to them again. Friends asked one another in the street, ‘When are you off?’ Farewell drinks were a Saturday night ritual before the sailing of every boat. Yet White had decided to come home. He wrote to Pepe Mamblas, ‘I landed here after fourteen years absence, and immediately realised how Australian I have been all the time underneath. Even the uglier aspects of the place have their significance and rightness, to me, though I expect if you came here, a real European, you would be rightly appalled. But I am enjoying relaxing with my instinct after a long session with my reason.’

–David Marr, Australian, b. 1947

Last Goodbyes, SS Ormonde, Woolloomooloo Passenger Terminal - c. 1938 Pic. Copyright Max Dupain Archive.

Last Goodbyes, SS Ormonde, Woolloomooloo Passenger Terminal – c. 1938 Pic. (Copyright Max Dupain Archive.)






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