He was raised in Athens and Alexandria. In 1941 he joined the Greek Army in exile in Egypt and soon after, in Alexandria, met White, who was then serving with the Royal Australian Air Force. (Picture: Patrick White)
White and Lascaris lived together in Cairo for six years, before moving to a small farm on the outskirts of Sydney in 1948. When White's mother died, they moved into Highbury in Centennial Park, where they lived for the rest of their lives. Although it was widely known that they were lovers, such matters were not publicly discussed in Australia at that time. Lascaris was sometimes referred to as White's "housekeeper." The relationship was not openly discussed until White published his memoirs, Flaws in the Glass, in 1981.
By the time World War II broke out, Patrick White (28 May 1912 – 30 Sep 1990) joined the British Royal Air Force. While in the Middle East, he had an affair with a Greek army officer, Manoly Lascaris, who was to become his life partner. After the war White returned to Australia, buying an old house in Castle Hill. Here he settled down with Lascaris. White and Lascaris hosted many dinner parties at Highbury, their Centennial Park home, in a leafy part of the affluent Eastern suburbs of Sydney.
Highbury, Patrick White & Manoly Lascaris's house
After White's death in 1990, Lascaris was allowed, by the terms of the will, to stay in the house in Centennial Park and to receive income from White's share portfolio (after Lascaris died, these assets would be shared among four charitable causes.) Although Lascaris claimed that White left him nothing, he was well provided for. Lascaris lived alone in the house he had shared with White until his health failed in 2003. He then moved into a nursing home, Lulworth, which had been White's childhood home.
Lascaris was in many ways the gentle and urbane face of his life partnership with the prickly and difficult White. David Marr credits Lascaris with being the driving force who kept White to his literary labours, including the string of novels that won White the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. White referred to Lascaris as "the small Greek of immense moral strength who became the central mandala in my life's hitherto messy design".
Marr wrote in an obituary for Lascaris:
"Everyone loved Manoly. He was courtly, intuitive and gentle. He protected people from White's outbursts of fury while remaining, at heart, absolutely loyal to his lover. 'There must be one person in the world Patrick can trust absolutely'"After White's death in 1990, Lascaris lived alone in the Centennial Park house until his health failed in 2003. He then moved into a nursing home, Lulworth, which had been White's childhood home. Marr wrote:
"A last coincidence was waiting. When it was time for Lascaris to move to a nursing home, he was taken to Lulworth, the old mansion at the back of Kings Cross which was Patrick's childhood home before becoming a hospital after the war. The shades of so many of White's characters hung around the house. Aunt Theo gazed across the water to Darling Point. Laura Trevelyan waited here for the explorer Johann Ulrich Voss to call. Hurtle Duffield played under the bunya pine on the drive. Now the cast was joined by the original of all the dark, wise, muscular Greeks of the novels. Manoly died at Lulworth on 13 November 2003, at the age of 91, oblivious to the closing of a great circle that had come to embrace Scone and Smyrna, Sydney and Alexandria, the Whites and the Lascaris..'."Highbury was later given a state government heritage listing because of its association with Patrick White.
Patrick Victor Martindale White (28 May 1912 – 30 September 1990), was an Australian author who is widely regarded as one of the most important English-language novelists of the 20th century. From 1935 until his death, he published 12 novels, two short-story collections and eight plays.
White's fiction employs humour, florid prose, shifting narrative vantage points and a stream of consciousness technique. In 1973, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the only Australian to have been awarded the prize.
White was born in Knightsbridge, London, to an English-Australian father and an English mother. His family later moved to Sydney, Australia when he was six months old. As a child he lived in a flat with his sister, a nanny, and a maid, while his parents lived in an adjoining flat.
At the age of four White developed asthma, a condition that had taken the life of his maternal grandfather. White's health was fragile throughout his childhood, which precluded his participation in many childhood activities. He loved the theatre, which he first visited at an early age. This love was expressed at home when he performed private rites in the garden and danced for his mother’s friends.
At the age of ten, White was sent to Tudor House School, a boarding school in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, in an attempt to abate his asthma. It took him some time to adjust to the presence of other children. At boarding school he started to write plays. Even at this early age, White wrote about palpably adult themes. In 1924, the boarding school ran into financial trouble and the headmaster suggested that White be sent to a public school in England, a suggestion his parents accepted.
White struggled to adjust to his new surroundings at Cheltenham College, in Gloucestershire. He later described it as "a four-year prison sentence". White withdrew socially and had a limited circle of acquaintances. Occasionally, he would holiday with his parents at European locations, but their relationship remained distant.
While at school in London, White made one close friend, Ronald Waterall, an older boy who shared similar interests. White's biographer, David Marr, wrote that "the two men would walk, arm-in-arm, to London shows; and stand around stage doors crumbing for a glimpse of their favourite stars, giving a practical demonstration of a chorus girl's high kick ... with appropriate vocal accompaniment". When Waterall left school, White withdrew again. He asked his parents if he could leave school to become an actor. The parents compromised and allowed him to finish school early on the condition that he came home to Australia to try life on the land. His parents felt that he should work on the land rather than become a writer, and hoped that his work as a jackaroo would temper his artistic ambitions.
White spent two years working as a stockman at Bolaro, a station of 73-square-kilometre (28 sq mi) near Adaminaby on the edge of the Snowy Mountains in south-eastern Australia. Although he grew to respect the land and his health improved, it was clear that he was not cut out for this life.
From 1932 to 1935, White lived in England, studying French and German literature at King's College within Cambridge University. His homosexuality took a toll on his first term academic performance, in part because he developed a romantic attraction to a young man who had come to King's College to become an Anglican priest. White dared not speak of his feelings for fear of losing the friendship and, like many homosexual men of that period, feared that his sexuality would doom him to a lonely life. Then one night, the student priest, after an awkward liaison with two women, admitted to White that women meant nothing to him sexually. This became White's first love affair.
During White's time at Cambridge he published a collection of poetry entitled The Ploughman and Other Poems, and wrote a play named Bread and Butter Women, which was later performed by an amateur group (which included his sister Suzanne) at the tiny Bryant's Playhouse in Sydney. After being admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1935, White briefly settled in London, where he lived in an area that was frequented by artists. Here, the young author thrived creatively for a time, writing several unpublished works and reworking Happy Valley, a novel that he had written while jackarooing. In 1937, White's father died, leaving him ten thousand pounds in inheritance. The fortune enabled him to write full-time in relative comfort. Two more plays followed before he succeeded in finding a publisher for Happy Valley. The novel was received well in London, but poorly in Australia. He began writing another novel, Nightside, but abandoned it before its completion after receiving negative comments—a decision that he later admitted regretting.
In 1936 White met the painter Roy de Maistre, 18 years his senior, who became an important influence in his life and work. The two men never became lovers, but remained firm friends. In Patrick White's own words "He became what I most needed, an intellectual and aesthetic mentor". They had many similarities. They were both homosexual; they both felt like outsiders in their own families; as a result they both had ambivalent feelings about their families and backgrounds, yet both maintained close and lifelong links with their families, particularly their mothers. They also both appreciated the benefits of social standing and connections; and Christian symbolism and biblical themes are common in both artists' work. Patrick White dedicated his first novel 'Happy Valley' (1939) to de Maistre, and acknowledged de Maistre's influence on his writing. In 1947 de Maistre's painting Figure in a Garden (The Aunt) was used as the cover for the first edition of White's The Aunt's Story. White also bought many of de Maistre's paintings for himself. In 1974 White gave all his paintings by de Maistre to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Towards the end of the 1930s, White spent time in the United States, including Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and New York City, where he wrote The Living and the Dead. By the time World War II broke out, he had returned to London and joined the British Royal Air Force. He was accepted as an intelligence officer, and was posted to the Middle East. He served in Egypt, Palestine, and Greece before the war was over. While in the Middle East, he had an affair with a Greek army officer, Manoly Lascaris, who was to become his life partner.
After the war White once again returned to Australia, buying an old house in Castle Hill, now a Sydney suburb but then semi-rural. Here he settled down with Lascaris, the Greek he had met during the war. They lived there for 18 years, selling flowers, vegetables, milk, and cream, as well as pedigreed puppies. During these years he started to make a reputation for himself as a writer, publishing The Aunt's Story and The Tree of Man in the US in 1955 and shortly after in the UK. The Tree of Man was released to rave reviews in the US, but, in what was to become a typical pattern, was panned in Australia. White had doubts about whether to continue writing after his books were largely dismissed in Australia (three of them having been called ‘un-Australian’ by critics), but, in the end, decided to persevere. His first breakthrough in Australia came when his next novel, Voss, won the inaugural Miles Franklin Literary Award.
In 1961, White published Riders in the Chariot. This was to become both a bestseller and a prize-winner, gaining him a second Miles Franklin Award. In 1963, White and Lascaris decided to sell the house at Castle Hill that they had named "Dogwoods". A number of White's works from the 1960s depict the fictional town of Sarsaparilla, including his collection of short stories, The Burnt Ones, and the play, The Season at Sarsaparilla. By now, he had clearly established his reputation as one of the world's great authors, but remained an essentially private person, resisting opportunities for interviews and public appearances, although his circle of friends had widened significantly.
In 1968, White wrote The Vivisector, a searing character portrait of an artist. Many people drew links to the Sydney painter John Passmore (1904–84) and White's friend, the painter Sidney Nolan, but White denied these connections. Patrick White was an art collector who had, as a young man, been deeply impressed by his friends Roy De Maistre and Francis Bacon, and later said he wished he had been an artist. White's elaborate, idiosyncratic prose was a writer's attempt to emulate painting. By the mid sixties he had also become interested in encouraging dozens of young and less established artists, such as James Clifford, Erica McGilchrist, and Lawrence Daws. White was later friends with Brett Whiteley, the young star of Australian painting, in the 1970s. That friendship ended when White felt that Whiteley, a heroin addict, was deceitful and pushy about selling his paintings. A portrait of White by Louis Kahan won the 1962 Archibald Prize.
White decided not to accept any more prizes for his work, and declined both the $10,000 Britannia Award and another Miles Franklin Award. White was approached by Harry M. Miller to work on a screenplay for Voss, but nothing came of it. He became an active opponent of literary censorship and joined a number of other public figures in signing a statement of defiance against Australia’s decision to participate in the Vietnam War.
In 1973, White became the only Australian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for an epic and psychological narrative art, which has introduced a new continent into literature". His cause was said to have been championed by a Scandinavian diplomat resident in Australia. White enlisted Sidney Nolan to travel to Stockholm to accept the prize on his behalf. The award had an immediate impact on his career, as his publisher doubled the print run for The Eye of the Storm and gave him a larger advance for his next novel. White used the money from the prize to establish a trust to fund the Patrick White Award, given annually to established creative writers who have received little public recognition. He was invited by the House of Representatives to be seated on the floor of the House in recognition of his achievement. White declined, explaining that his nature could not easily adapt itself to such a situation. The last time such an invitation had been extended was in 1928, to Bert Hinkler.
White was made Australian of the Year for 1974, but in a typically rebellious fashion, his acceptance speech encouraged Australians to spend the day reflecting on the state of the country. Privately, he was less than enthusiastic about it. In a letter to Marshall Best on 27 January 1974, he wrote: "Something terrible happened to me last week. There is an organisation which chooses an Australian of the Year, who has to appear at an official lunch in Melbourne Town Hall on Australia Day. This year I was picked on as they had run through all the swimmers, tennis players, yachtsmen".
White and Lascaris hosted many dinner parties at Highbury, their Centennial Park home, in a leafy part of the affluent Eastern suburbs of Sydney. In Patrick White, A Life, his biographer David Marr portrays White as a genial host but one who easily fell out with friends. Barrister Roderick Meagher, QC, despised White and described him as a "great shit." He said White was terribly cruel to other people and as rude as he could possibly be; rude to all sorts of people who did not deserve it.
White supported the conservative, business oriented Liberal Party of Australia until the election of Gough Whitlam's Labor government and, following the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, became particularly anti-royalist, making a rare appearance on national television to broadcast his views on the matter. White also publicly expressed his admiration for the historian Manning Clark, satirist Barry Humphries, and unionist Jack Mundey.
During the 1970s, White's health began to deteriorate—his teeth were crumbling, his eyesight was failing, and he had chronic lung problems. In 1979, his novel The Twyborn Affair was short-listed for the Booker Prize, but White requested that it be removed to give younger writers a chance to win. (The prize was won by Penelope Fitzgerald, who ironically was just four years younger than White.) Soon after, White announced that he had written his last novel, and that in the future, he would write only for radio or the stage.
Director Jim Sharman introduced himself to White while walking down a Sydney street, Sharman asking White if he could make a film of The Night the Prowler. White wrote the screenplay for the film.
In 1981, White published his autobiography, Flaws in the Glass: a self-portrait, which explored issues about which he had publicly said little, such as his homosexuality, and his refusal to accept the Nobel Prize personally. On Palm Sunday, 1982, White addressed a crowd of 30,000 people, calling for a ban on uranium mining and for the destruction of nuclear weapons.
In 1986 White released one last novel, Memoirs of Many in One, though it was published under the pen name "Alex Xenophon Demirjian Gray" and edited by Patrick White. In the same year, Voss was turned into an opera, with music by Richard Meale and the libretto adapted by David Malouf. White refused to see it when it was first performed at the Adelaide Festival of Arts, because Queen Elizabeth II had been invited, and chose instead to see it later in Sydney. In 1987, White wrote Three Uneasy Pieces, with his musings on ageing and society's efforts to achieve aesthetic perfection. When David Marr finished his biography of White in July 1990, his subject spent nine days going over the details with him.
Patrick White died in Sydney on 30 September 1990.
Patrick White and Christina Stead continue to be widely recognised as the foremost Australian novelists of the 20th century. His writing tackles existential questions as well as myriad human flaws, weaknesses and hypocrisies, and it is full of fresh and original metaphor. Admittedly, White's style is also often very condensed and perhaps at first somewhat difficult to approach – such noted writers as Robert Hughes and David Malouf have expressed their difficulties with some of White's writing. Nevertheless, Patrick White's greatness as a novelist remains undoubted.
In 2010 White received posthumous recognition for his novel The Vivisector, which was shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker Prize for 1970.
In 2009, The Sydney Theatre Company staged White's play The Season at Sarsaparilla. In 2011 Fred Schepisi's film of The Eye of the Storm was released with screenplay adaptation by Judy Morris, Geoffrey Rush playing the (White-like?) son Basil, Judy Davis as the daughter Dorothy, and Charlotte Rampling as the dying matriarch Elizabeth Hunter. This is the first screen realisation of a White novel, fittingly the one that played a key role in the Swedish panel's choice of White as Nobel prize winner.
White was the first Australian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1973). He was openly gay and infamously misanthropic. When named “Australian of the Year” he wrote to a friend: “Something terrible happened to me last week.” To describe the plot of The Eye of the Storm might turn off potential readers, but here goes: it’s a long, challenging book about the slow death of a strident, indomitable elderly woman. Her children, a down-at-the-heels “princess” and an actor, return to Australia from abroad to be with her as she’s dying. Nurses come and go. Eventually…but I won’t spoil the ending. Fans of Henry James will appreciate White’s complicated, rewarding prose and his astonishing psychological accuracy. --Stephen McCauleyDays of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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