We follow 4 characters as they interact with each other, and get their personal biographies as well. Mary, the ugly, simple-minded, unwanted daughter of eccentric parents. Himmelfarb, the Jew who emigra Let me just say, right up front, this book is difficult. Himmelfarb, the Jew who emigrated to Australia after escaping from a German concentration camp. Dubbo, a half-caste Aborigine who only lives for his art, and Mrs Godbold, mistreated, poverty stricken washerwoman who becomes the Angel in the Chariot that is dreamed of by the other three.
Here's the amazing thing about this book. I'd be reading along, trying to understand I determined to give this up three times , then there would be a sentence of such beauty and wisdom and clarity that I knew I needed to struggle on. Such as: "But the earth is wonderful. It is all we have. It has brought me back when otherwise I should have died. When the earth can no longer raise you up? I would like to persuade you that the simple acts we have learnt to perform daily are the best protection against evil. They are the same at birth, perhaps you will agree.
It is only the coat they are told to put on that makes them all that different. And in the end, they are naked again, as they were in the beginning. But it seems I'm not really done at all, because it's in my head, roiling around, trying to make me understand. Maybe Patrick White is the Australian Faulkner. He won the Nobel Prize in View all 8 comments. The book begins with Miss Hare, a tragi-comic figure of fun in the fictional town of Sarsparilla.
Heiress to a bizarre crumbling mansion called Xanadu, she is an eccentric in a society that values conformity. Too plain and too odd to have been married off by her equally odd parents she has lived on alone in Xanadu until finally she takes on a housekeeper called Mrs Jolley. Mrs Jolley specialises in working for elderly spinsters in need of a friend to whom a fortune might be bequeathed, but she is taken aback by Xanadu with its fallen masonry, mould covered interiors and invading plant life.
But simple as she is, Miss Hare has a rich spiritual connection with the earth, the plants and small creatures of her estate. Her visions derive from her instincts, her patient observations of the minutiae of life, and the timelessness of her days. The object of patronising gossip at the post office, grubby, foolish Miss Hare in her shabby hats and crumpled stockings is linked to prophecy, punishment, purification and redemption. Mar 24, Philippe rated it it was amazing Shelves: fiction. A searing novel. The story-telling gifts of Patrick White are truly out of this world.
I remember reading Voss decades ago.
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A humbling experience. I had to bushwhack my way through the first hundred pages. Then the recalcitrant narrative allowed me into a clearing and nudged me on until it was too late and, spellbound, I could not tear myself away from the protagonist's final dissolution. Riders vibrates with similar themes and sensations.
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Here again, we see the world through the eyes of 'chosen A searing novel. Here again, we see the world through the eyes of 'chosen' people with archetypal contours: an artist, a guardian, a mother-servant, a priest. Each in his or her own way acts as a spiritual leader, even if they are confined to the margins of society. It is not immanence to life, but the immanent that is in nothing, is itself a life.
A life is the immanence of immanence: it is complete power, complete bliss. The general populace registers their qualities mostly subliminally and reacts with unease or hostility. White suggests that drawing-room conspiracies easily spill over into scapegoating and ostracism. The acrid smell of KZ ovens may flare our nostrils any time. Wow, I feel parallaxed. Some books I dread finishing for two reasons. First, obviously I don't want it to end, and second, with a rare book like this, when it comes to getting down some thoughts, the task overwhelms with a sense of paralysis. Riders in the Chariot is an experience similar to revisiting that high back in my youth in discovering another level I never knew existed, like discovering Hermann Hesse and Alan Watts.
Apr 11, Lobstergirl rated it liked it Recommends it for: knee-strokers. Shelves: own , fiction , nyrb. This is probably a masterpiece. Certainly it's pages of almost nonstop virtuosity, thickly-laid words bound together in sentences, a highly idiosyncratic style sui generis to White. She snorted, and began to suck the hot, rubbery lumps of her exasperated lips. This is the story of four good, guileless individuals living in a postwar Sydney, Australia suburb - Miss Hare, a muddled, virginal old woman living in her parents' decaying mansion; Himmelfarb, a Holocaust survivor and former scholar, n This is probably a masterpiece.
This is the story of four good, guileless individuals living in a postwar Sydney, Australia suburb - Miss Hare, a muddled, virginal old woman living in her parents' decaying mansion; Himmelfarb, a Holocaust survivor and former scholar, now working in a bicycle lamp factory; Mrs. Godbold, an impoverished laundress with a gaggle of children and a husband who beats her; and Alf Dubbo, an aboriginal of extremely mean origins who is a gifted and visionary painter.
Around these four is a cast of morally substandard and even evil characters who make their lives difficult.
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Toward the end of the novel in particular, religious allegories and Christlike comparisons abound. David Malouf writes in the introduction that White wanted to give this novel "the textures of music, the sensuousness of paint," which he certainly does. Malouf also adds, accurately, that the book's "interweaving voices and visions barely connect at the level of the actual. And sometimes there are agreeably clever, but not entirely sensical, sentences like: Indeed, her breasts would not have existed if it had not been for coming to an agreement with her vest. I suppose my main problem with the novel is that it's hard on the reader to get through, or process, this much unrelenting virtuosity.
Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody , for example, is 13 and a half minutes of musical virtuosity, which is an absorbable amount. What if Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody went on for 8 hours? Then it would be like this novel. What to say about this epic visionary masterpiece? So heartfelt, original, challenging, it really is a heroic work that daemands heroism from the reader too as with most great books.
It takes you to the edges of human perception, and although christian in much of its symbolism, its message is universal: that goodness in human society is either shunned or ignored and that evil manifests itself in those who consider themselves among the righteous. May 07, Sara rated it liked it Shelves: literary-fiction , world-war I sometimes complain that books I read are not about anything substantial.
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Riders in the Chariot does not have that problem. Every page is about something that is meant to be significant. Sadly, I believe White sometimes goes for too much. Too much symbolism, too much obscurity, and too much mysticism. What he does, in consequence, is interrupt the flow of the story and leave the reader feeling he has missed something that is essential to understanding the ideas presented 3. What he does, in consequence, is interrupt the flow of the story and leave the reader feeling he has missed something that is essential to understanding the ideas presented, but too vague to nail down.
I would rather have the narrative suggest and give me some room to interpret; for a man who obviously hates preachers, White tends to preach too much. There are four central characters, each an outsider, with physical repulsions but pure souls. While White appears to be open to Judaism, he shows a marked loathing for other organized religion, making most of the Christians in his novel nothing short of monstrous.
The four visionaries that are his main characters find their spiritual connections through other mediums: Mary Hare through nature; Alf Dubbo through art; Mrs. Godbold through humanism; and Mordecai Himmelfarb through Jewish mysticism. There are some, of course, that feel they are not suited. They think they will change their coat. But remain the same, in themselves. Only at the end, when everything is taken from them, it seems there was never any need.
There are the poor souls, at rest, and all naked again, as they were at the beginning. That is how it strikes me, sir. Perhaps you will remember, on thinking it over, that is how Our Lord himself wished us to see it. I see my faith as the thing that sustains and supports me, while he saw faith as a thing that corrupts and defiles. The horrors he detailed were the evils of man, not of God. Some parts of the book are quite compelling and the prose flows, and then there are sections that seem distracting and the writing punishing.
I would be thinking to myself that I could not connect to what was going on, and then White would ease into the story and pull me right back in again. I felt their pain, their convictions, their unfair circumstances and the injustice of the society they occupied. I believe White understood outsiders, but I thought he had perhaps viewed too much of the evil to appreciate that there was also good. I admit to being happy to be done with this chunker.
It will probably prey upon my mind for a while, though, because it has an essential element for a good book--it makes you think, it asks you to question, it demands that you inspect your own beliefs and heart. A stunningly brilliant book. Patrick White proves time and time that he deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature.
This is a study of four people that share a common vision of the riders in the chariot, a quote from the book of the prophet Ezekiel; Miss Hare, the aged maiden lady and sole possessor of the old house and estate of Xanadu; Mordechai Himmelfarb , a Jew who has passed through Europe and the holocaust to end his days in Australia; Alf Dubbo the aborigine painter who sees and paints in v A stunningly brilliant book.
This is a study of four people that share a common vision of the riders in the chariot, a quote from the book of the prophet Ezekiel; Miss Hare, the aged maiden lady and sole possessor of the old house and estate of Xanadu; Mordechai Himmelfarb , a Jew who has passed through Europe and the holocaust to end his days in Australia; Alf Dubbo the aborigine painter who sees and paints in visions and carries the Old Testament with him; and Mrs Goldbud the good woman and washerwoman who befriends them all.
Along the way each tells their story and they become intertwined in the present of the narrator. White wants to get across. A wonderful wonderful book. It is deeply illuminating of the Australian character. Jan 15, Christin rated it really liked it Shelves: nobel-prize-for-literature. I came into this book without prior knowledge or expectations all I knew is that the author was a Nobel Prize for Literature winner and Australian.
I always love well-crafted multi-narrator tales where the narrators and characters all relate and intersect in surprising and interesting ways like Zadie Smith's I came into this book without prior knowledge or expectations all I knew is that the author was a Nobel Prize for Literature winner and Australian. I always love well-crafted multi-narrator tales where the narrators and characters all relate and intersect in surprising and interesting ways like Zadie Smith's White Teeth, for example , and White does that well.
I am sure there were allusions and subtext and subtleties that I missed, particularly religious ones, but what captivated me were the characters and their narrative voices. Himmelfarb grabbed me the most but all of the voices and the ways they balanced each other engaged me. Certain elements of it reminded me of Jorge Louis Borges' short story "The Gospel According to Mark", which shouldn't be surprising since the title "Riders in the Chariot" refers to the Book of Ezekiel.
A beautifully crafted story that shows how society at its worst can torture the best people, and despite some of the mystical or religious tones of the book, the flaws, atrocities, and discrimination that White displays are all too human and concrete. Oct 09, Peter Slater rated it it was amazing.
Patrick White's characters are the poor, the outcasts, the refugees, those who live on the margins of society, and in them he discovers the central truths of what it means to be human. This has become one of my favourite books. Each time I read it I discover something new.
Patrick White has an uncanny ability to capture deep, spiritual meanings in the most unlikely places. He finds the sacred in the derelict, and joy amongst the ruins. And he conveys what one senses to be the essence of character Patrick White's characters are the poor, the outcasts, the refugees, those who live on the margins of society, and in them he discovers the central truths of what it means to be human.
And he conveys what one senses to be the essence of character and place in often what seems a casual, off-hand manner. The prose sometimes takes on the form of an abstract painting so that some descriptions at first seem absurd and meaningless; but they never are. Feb 14, Daniel Polansky added it Shelves: nyrb-classics , fiction. In a small Australian town, four holy fools; the Lamed Wufnik of legend, righteous souls who secretly uphold the universe; do spiritual combat with the terrible darkness of modernity and human indifference.
Aesthetically it is a masterpiece. White has that rarest of gift of making each sentence seem like a sentence no had ever written before, and yet the narrative re In a small Australian town, four holy fools; the Lamed Wufnik of legend, righteous souls who secretly uphold the universe; do spiritual combat with the terrible darkness of modernity and human indifference. White has that rarest of gift of making each sentence seem like a sentence no had ever written before, and yet the narrative remains compulsively readable.
It lyrical, tragic and uplifting; it feels like the visions which are given to its protagonists, a searing insight into the painful wonder of the human condition. It is the sort of book which nearly makes one believe in God. Apr 22, David Standing rated it really liked it. Outsiderdom was something Patrick White understood closely having been a sickly young boy denied the company of other children, followed by a few miserable years as an Australian in a British boarding school.
After the war he set up home with his gay lifelong partner in suburban Sydney, many moons before the mardi gras era. The four outsiders whose fates are destined to intertwine are privy to religious revelation; all Outsiderdom was something Patrick White understood closely having been a sickly young boy denied the company of other children, followed by a few miserable years as an Australian in a British boarding school.
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For these people will suffer greatly at the hands of their fellow men. Their privilege of religious revelation as well as the revelation of the natural world is greatly outweighed by the pain, cruelty, humiliation and worse, that they will be subjected to. While White acknowledges the good of mankind as embodied by the Christian benevolence of the aptly named Mrs. Godbold, the evil of mankind as experienced by Himmelfarb the Jew, in both Nazi Germany and post war Australia is what dominates the authors bleak vision of mankind. Once the climax of the novel has been reached, White seems to falter as how to end his novel and the final chapter seemed to me somewhat weak.
Dec 26, Connieh rated it liked it. I gave this book 3 stars for originality and unusual subjects. Some of it was brilliant but other parts were trying too hard to be brilliant. It was overworked in places and that's when it fell down for me. The characters were interesting and kept you wanting to know more about them. But they were not convincing as flesh and blood people but rather contrivances to convey the same messages over and over again.
I think the book revealed more about the author than anything else. His feeling of desp I gave this book 3 stars for originality and unusual subjects. His feeling of despair, being an outcast because of his sexuality, and general dissatisfaction with life. Still, the mark of a good book is to remember it after reading the last page. The rod is also in good condition.
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