On Patrick White, Australia’s Great Unread Novelist

Madeleine Watts at Literary Hub:

In some respects this reflects a national pathology. Unlike an American or British child, an Australian student can go through thirteen years of education without reading much of their country’s literature at all (of the more than twenty writers I studied in high school, only two were Australian). This is symptomatic of the country’s famed “cultural cringe,” a term first coined in the 1940s by the critic A.A. Phillips to describe the ways that Australians tend to be prejudiced against home-grown art and ideas in favor of those imported from the UK and America. Australia’s attitude to the arts has, for much of the last two centuries, been moral. “What these idiots didn’t realize about White was that he was the most powerful spruiker for morality that anybody was going to read in an Australian work,” argued David Marr, White’s biographer, during a talk at the Wheeler Centre in 2013. “And here were these petty little would-be moral tyrants whinging about this man whose greatest message about this country in the end was that we are an unprincipled people.”

But if White could critique the country and name Australians as unprincipled, it was something he had earned by going back.

more here.