I read a Literary Blog recently that asked whether Patrick White was the most unreadable of all the winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Not having read them all (though that is one of my ambitions) I can't comment. However, White is difficult to read. Although this does not mean that he is not a writer of genius.

White's modus operandii is Character and it might be possible to compare Voss to Conrad's Heart Of Darkness. In Conrad, the country crossed (whether Africa in the book or Asia in Apocalypse Now) is part of the madness, the country is all pervading, doing it's worst to destroy normally sane men. In Voss, the Australian Wilderness takes a back seat. White focuses on character to the exclusion of all else, his eye for social deceit misses nothing and at times this can get tedious and difficult to follow as Voss and Laura struggle with their demons. The point being - Voss is already mad. He can only be saved by being destroyed in the desert. He walks his own personal hell, dragging others with him. While White's character work is difficult at times it is also totally engrossing, pushing the reader directly into the skin of a madman. A man already destroyed before he even takes one step of his journey.

White details on every fragmentary look, every stray thought, every small movement. It is a difficult style but if you can overcome it, you find yourself walking step by step with an intriguing character in complete harmony with madness. The start may be slow, the path may be difficult, but like Voss, once you start, you cannot stop. You have to take the journey along with him and you will not regret it.

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