Voss and Jacob Boehme: A Note on the Spirituality of Patrick White


Although the religious framework of Voss is obviously subsidiary to its interest as a novel, it does throw light on one difficult subject. White's pessimism and the limits of that pessimism: the curious vision in the book of a bleak, yet in a sense, self-curing world. The bleakness probably needs no emphasis. It is true that, to a very limited extent, Australia has found herself at the end of Voss but Willie Pringle's expression of hope for the future is very tentative. The continued irony and even distaste shown about the social world and 'the flesh', even after they have been embraced, makes it doubtful that coming to terms with the physical, or social salvation, are really what Voss is about. However, the problem of Voss is clearly not its quality of disgust. Although shocking to the humanist mind, a harsh and unaccommodating view of life is nothing new in the religious novel from Graham Greene onwards, nor is it even a twentieth century phenomenon.

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Published 1 May 1979 in Volume 9 No. 1. Subjects: Literary influences, Mysticism, Patrick White.

Cite as: Coates, John. ‘Voss and Jacob Boehme: A Note on the Spirituality of Patrick White.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, 1979, doi: 10.20314/als.4bdae1868f.