Review of Patrick White by Brian Kiernan
Brian Kiernan's study joins William Walsh's as a sensible introductory study of Patrick White's oeuvre (up to but not including The Twyborn Affair). Like Walsh's book it is the sort of work which undergraduate and Higher School Certificate candidates can use without harm, and one which is marketed for the international student market. This in part explains why Kiernan has to put in disclaimers and explanations for the dwellers in darkness overseas. Kiernan refers to this process as 'cultural translation', which at first sight would seem a good idea. However, why, one must ask oneself, is it necessary culturally to translate White for other English speaking audiences, when no one does (or did) the same for Joyce or, for that matter, Borges? Is it because Australians believe that when their society undergoes a metaphoric transformation in the hands of the artist, the tenor has to be explained in detail. Is it that we revere the real, far more than the romance? That we are proud of the ordinary, and want it to be as much up front as the extraordinary which White has foregrounded? What we have to remember is that White's Australian suburbia (and desert) is as real for overseas readers as Tennessee Williams' New Orleans, and Joyce's Dublin of 1904. They are landscapes of the mind, not of time and place.
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