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Let me just say, right up front, this book is difficult Hard to wade through the prose, hard to understand when you do what just happened hard to accept the small cruelties of everyday life and fate and bad decisions I think this book may be better as I mull it over than it was while reading.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 Hard to wade through the prose, hard to understand when you do what just happened hard to accept the small cruelties of everyday life and fate and bad decisions I think this book may be better as I mull it over than it was while reading.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 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 And at the end When the earth can no longer raise you up I shall sink into it, she said, and the grass will grow out of me AND I am going now I would like to persuade you that the simple acts we have learnt to perform daily are the best protection against evil AND Men are the same before they are born 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 I was happy to turn the last page of this novel, just to be done with it 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 1973 The VisionariesWhat makes a great novel Many things, but among them I would certainly list Scale, Characters, and Moral Vision All three of these qualities are to be found in this towering novel by Patrick White It is the first book by the Nobel laureate that I have encountered it will not be the last.This is a long book 640 pages , but a very easy one to read In any case, when speaking of scale, physical length is less important than breadth of implication White concentrates on a small g The VisionariesWhat makes a great novel Many things, but among them I would certainly list Scale, Characters, and Moral Vision All three of these qualities are to be found in this towering novel by Patrick White It is the first book by the Nobel laureate that I have encountered it will not be the last.This is a long book 640 pages , but a very easy one to read In any case, when speaking of scale, physical length is less important than breadth of implication White concentrates on a small group of people living on the outskirts of Sydney after WW2, but makes them seem emblematic of the entire continent There is also a wide range of origin and social class the characters include the last survivor of a once rich aristocratic family, a German Jewish professor fleeing the Holocaust, a poor washerwoman who emigrated from England as a child, and a half aboriginal painter Since each character is given almost 100 pages of back story, the novel is by no means confined in place or period either the section set in Germany between the wars can hold its own with the best Holocaust writing anywhere, with particular insights into Jewish social, intellectual, and spiritual life But the most important aspect of the book s scale is the feeling held by each of the four major characters that the universe is an immensely greater place than anything they may see around them.White has the great gift of loving his characters Each of the four is something of an outcast Miss Hare, the faded aristocrat, is clearly mad Himmelfarb, the professor, now chooses to work in a menial job, without possessions or other signs of status Mrs Godbold, the washerwoman, lives with her many daughters in a tumbledown shack Alf Dubbo, the half caste painter, works by day as a janitor and is given to fits of drunkenness And yet White writes so convincingly through the eyes of each that we dothan feel sympathy for them we begin to see the others around them as impoverished of spirit, living only partial lives White is brilliant in creating a gallery of semi comic secondary characters some bad, some well meaning, some merely lacking in imagination to set off the qualities of his principal quartet, but even these have dimension and are far from caricatures.One of the curious aspects of the book is that the four characters hardly ever meet, although they recognize an immediate kinship when they do For all four are religious visionaries Their visions may occur only once or twice in their lives, but the image is the same for each the approach of Ezekiel s fiery chariot, both wonderful and terrible I can think of few books that are so successful at portraying the mystical dimension while being so firmly rooted in the mundane This is clearly a religious book, but not at all a sectarian one It is White s strength that he endows his visionaries with everyday failings, and gives each a very different religious background Miss Hare s religion, if she has one, is a pantheism rooted in the plants and animals on her moldering estate Himmelfarb has returned to Judaism only after years of secular life, and considers himself morally unworthy Mrs Godbold is a staunch evangelical, but her religion showsin her practical kindnesses to others than in any doctrinal fundamentalism And Alf Dubbo, though raised by a preacher and especially inspired by religious subjects, is dissolute and virtually autistic in his day to day life.A fourth quality that I might have mentioned is Style White s writing, as I say, is easy to read, but very varied and always appropriate to the tone of the moment While he can neatly skewer the social pretensions of the Rosetrees the employers of Himmelfarb and Alf , he can also shift to the kind of description that portrays everyday things as symbolic of eternal conflicts or reflections of the infinite His descriptions of Alf Dubbo s paintings, for example, are equaled by no author I can think of except perhaps Chaim Potok in My Name Is Asher Lev, in their ability to convey a truly incandescent artistic vision Such mastery of style is essential because, as loners, his characters cannot interact much together in terms of everyday plot, and in narrative terms the concluding section of the book is less compelling than the long set up But where the characters do meet is in their common vision, their unspoken sense of rightness, and it is precisely in White s evocative language that this sounds, resonates, resounds The world is a great sum of the infinitesimally small human beings and the majority of the little souls remain unnoticed and unobserved.But in the eye of the beholder the world often turns into a thing quite different from what it may seem.When Himmelfarb was able onceto raise his head, he realized that, for the second time in his life, he had fainted, or God had removed him, mercifully, from his body Now it was evening, and a strange one Those objects which had appeared most solid befor The world is a great sum of the infinitesimally small human beings and the majority of the little souls remain unnoticed and unobserved.But in the eye of the beholder the world often turns into a thing quite different from what it may seem.When Himmelfarb was able onceto raise his head, he realized that, for the second time in his life, he had fainted, or God had removed him, mercifully, from his body Now it was evening, and a strange one Those objects which had appeared most solid before the recently built bath houses, for instance, and the iron towers, were partially dissolved in mist The well planned establishment which he had known as Friedensdorf was enclosed in a blood red blur, or aura, at the centre of which he lay, like a chrysalis swathed in some mysterious supernatural cocoon Other forms, presumably, though not distinguishably human, moved on transcendental errands within the same shape, no longer that intense crimson, but expanding to a loose orange Of blue edges.And some of these disregarded simple souls are uniquely divine and they are always ready to redeem mankind Then there is the Chariot of Redemption, muchshadowy, poignant, personal And the faces of the riders I cannot begin to see the expression of the faces.These are the souls of seemingly ordinary human beings that stand tall and they are those who deserve to ride in the chariot of God Don t die without reading In order to tempt readers into Riders in the Chariot, I can think of no better strategy than simply sampling White s prose the travesty of experience they had been taught firmly to suppress, like wind in company, the rise of unreason in their minds Reason finally holds a gun at its head and does not always miss Miss Hare continued, I still have to discover Perhaps somebody will tell me And show me at the same time how to distinguish with certainty Don t die without reading In order to tempt readers into Riders in the Chariot, I can think of no better strategy than simply sampling White s prose the travesty of experience they had been taught firmly to suppress, like wind in company, the rise of unreason in their minds Reason finally holds a gun at its head and does not always miss Miss Hare continued, I still have to discover Perhaps somebody will tell me And show me at the same time how to distinguish with certainty between good and evil Happy are the men who are able to tread transtional paths, scarcely looking to left or to right and without distinguishing an end faith is never faith unless it is to be wrestled with To abandon self is, after all, to accept the course that offers Everything has always happened before Except to children I would like to persuade you that the simple acts we have learnt to perform daily are the best protection against evil he shuddered to realiuze that there could never be an end to the rescue of men from the rubble of their own ideas Children and chairs conversed with him intimately.White is witty, humorous, philosophical, and gently ironic in about equal measure He constitutes an entire literary world on his own An Australian national treasure Her instinct suggested, rather, that she was being dispersed, but that in so experiencing, she was entering the final ecstasy Walking and walking through the unresistant thorns and twigs Ploughing through the soft opalescent remnants of night Never actually arriving, but that was to be expected, since she had become all pervasive scent sound, the steely dew, the blue glare of white light off rocks She was all but identified Riders in the Chariot wrestles throughout its sprawling 640 page c Her instinct suggested, rather, that she was being dispersed, but that in so experiencing, she was entering the final ecstasy Walking and walking through the unresistant thorns and twigs Ploughing through the soft opalescent remnants of night Never actually arriving, but that was to be expected, since she had become all pervasive scent sound, the steely dew, the blue glare of white light off rocks She was all but identified Riders in the Chariot wrestles throughout its sprawling 640 page course with this notion of Ascension The core quartet of characters struggle and persevere Their motivations and responses are hardly ideal The craven and the petty are a common currency here Colonial traditions wither, crack and collapse A modern mediocrity arrives at the end of the war, along with streams of refugees and migrants Names are nativised, genealogies whitened, decisions to emigrate are regretted and allowed to petrify in the bleak sun of the Outback.It does force one to contemplate the nature of the Elect.I found a number of analogies with Faulkner here The opening scenes harken to The Sound and the Fury and later details conjure Absalom, Absalom Whereas the original sin of Faulkner s South was slavery, a misdeed which poisoned the history, the land and the souls of Southerners, Patrick White isn t that specific, but finds the hollow idols of postwar Australia to be sufficiently damning Many of the accursed are slain in atonement Those that survivie maintain faith but little hope TheI read thePatrick White seemed like an inspired eccentric rather than a Nobel Laureate I prefer inspired eccentrics to Nobel Laureates, but then Patrick White proves that one can be both.This is a book about the burdens and dangers of being a visionary the Chariot of the title coming from Ezekiel and representing a palpable vision of a higher order of reality The four main characters have all had their own particular visions of the Chariot, the four roughly representing four di TheI read thePatrick White seemed like an inspired eccentric rather than a Nobel Laureate I prefer inspired eccentrics to Nobel Laureates, but then Patrick White proves that one can be both.This is a book about the burdens and dangers of being a visionary the Chariot of the title coming from Ezekiel and representing a palpable vision of a higher order of reality The four main characters have all had their own particular visions of the Chariot, the four roughly representing four different pathways to the divine One is an eccentric old maid nature mystic living alone in a crumbling estate, another is a German Jew whose parents arranged for his escape from the evil that soon killed them and who connects with the divine through Cabala, one is a half aborigine outcast who gets there through oil painting, while the last is an old washerwoman who abides in the higher orders through humility Each of these four characters comes off as a type which is a minor flaw, someso than others, but each is also provided with a substantial backstory which fleshes out the typeness of their representation.These four blessed souls are set against a backdrop of petty suburbanites who are sometimes represented as ridiculously satirical as anything in Terry Gilliam s Brazil esp near the end when one woman shows up with a hat that incorporates an actually smoking volvano Rather than in the mysticism it s in this portrayal of the suburban backdrop where White s eccentricities fully flower His naturally ornery nature is rarely obscured by objectivity, throbbing with spleen that only reaches the comic at its outer limits, the bulk of it being a smoking disgust only slightly tempered by his gentility.His eccentricity also flowers in the structure of the book While White s prose, when it s inspired as it is for the greater part of this book, is a thing of beauty to be savored, his structure is awkward, as back stories go on and on however fascinating until they threaten to overwhelm the very action of the book The present tense gets oddly short shrift, and characters who aren t provided with back stories have no chance against White s stinging portrayal of them While reading I kept imagining large paintings that, say, have an irresistibly attention grabbing, obsessively detailed section in the bottom left, while the center of the canvas is rendered in loose non specific strokes this juxtaposition causing eye cramps and brain discomfort as you move back and forth between them This effect left me uncertain how to proceed at times, as I went from prose that demanded undivided attention to prose that almost begged to be skimmed Mahler s symphonies also came to mind for similar reasons Given White s overall mastery I can t help but think this flaw was intentional for some reason.The overall plot itself is a well handled religious allegory roughly mirroring the life of Christ that only rarely becomes heavy handed It is also a portrayal of the old notion that there are at any one time on Earth a very limited number of wise souls who are responsible for the salvation of the world by propogating that wisdom, but wedded to this arefied idea is the notion of the artist as filling this role also.This book will appeal to outsiders, to people who feel generally at odds with the times and their environment, but who are substantial and significant in and of themselves or just to someone who seethes with hate at what they say but who still harbors some vision of goodness Patrick White was something like an aristocratic bohemian near crank with a genuine sympathy for the truly excluded, for which I d like to shake his hand Oddly, I lost this book just before I finished it, and just as everything in the book was falling apart main characters dying, the mansion crumbling, paintings being thoughtlessly sold off and just as I was wondering if there would be a Resurrection in keeping with the overall Christ allegory Losing the book dashed my hopes for any positive outcome in the novel, and besides being pissed I got a bit depressed But the next day after fruitlessly checking the library lost and found and the various help desks, I went to the chair where I had been sitting the day before, and there was the book And even though the low keyed joy that the resurrection of my copy brought me wasn t exactly paralleled in the book itself, the coincidence somehow injected an optimism into my reading experience Think, first, David Mitchell s interconnectivity, how we link person to person, era to era, war to war, genre to genre Transmigrating spirits.Miss Hare is an only child, born to some money, in Australia She is, let s just say, a disappointment Not pretty not pretty at all And something wrong with her, too She likes the woods, and the creatures there She prefers it there There it is where she meets Himmelfarb, the Jew, who has survived Auschwitz, and made it down under He is no safer th Think, first, David Mitchell s interconnectivity, how we link person to person, era to era, war to war, genre to genre Transmigrating spirits.Miss Hare is an only child, born to some money, in Australia She is, let s just say, a disappointment Not pretty not pretty at all And something wrong with her, too She likes the woods, and the creatures there She prefers it there There it is where she meets Himmelfarb, the Jew, who has survived Auschwitz, and made it down under He is no safer there An aborigine painter, of sorts, is drawn to him, fulfilling the agony of painting Christ Ruth Joyner, a washerwoman and abused wife, stout, will heal them all while she can.This is a large canvas history, mythology, bible Who brings the light Who brings the sun The Chariot of the title is a constant presence For each of the players, as they try to find meaning We are told to look at the painting of Odilon Redon, The Chariot of Apollo Rarely, in Literature, is a painting so prominent And yet, the Riders in the book title are absent from the painting I could jabber for a long time about what that means, about the colors of heaven, the driving forces of history, the reader filling a void but it d just be me, well, jabbering.Instead, let me tell you that near the end of the book there is a crucifixion It s written over the top, obvious And no poorer for it White is fascinating he has precisely two tools in his kit, and when they re working, I couldn t care less about his failure to, you know, structure his books or think through his incredibly vague ideas When the two tools aren t working, I can t stomachthan about 15 pages at a time Luckily, in Riders , White is at or near peak As seasoned readers will know, White can t focus onthan two people at a time, which means that almost every scene chapter section book he s ever written i White is fascinating he has precisely two tools in his kit, and when they re working, I couldn t care less about his failure to, you know, structure his books or think through his incredibly vague ideas When the two tools aren t working, I can t stomachthan about 15 pages at a time Luckily, in Riders , White is at or near peak As seasoned readers will know, White can t focus onthan two people at a time, which means that almost every scene chapter section book he s ever written involves two or fewer people Here, I do not care, because the individuals are so fascinating whether they fill me with joy, as in the case of Mordecai with hatred for my country, as in with Dubbo a victim of it or the Mrses Jolley and Flack the victors love, as with Mrs Godbold or deep ambivalence, as with Miss Hare And their interactions are things of stupendous wonder I do not care about White s failings, because he hits you over the head with things like Where fippancy is absent, truth can only be inferred and I am afraid it may soon be forgotten that our being a people does not relieve us of individual obligations I can t help but wonder if White and Arendt stole each other s ideas and, gloriously I say this as someone who isn t much impressed by descriptions in literature the plump, shiny, maculated birds, neither black nor grey, but of a common, bird colour, were familiar as her own instinct for air and twigs And one bird touched her deeply, clinging clumsily to a cornice Confusion had robbed it of its grace, making it a blunt thing, of ruffled gills The flipping and flopping between incredible precision plump, shiny, maculated, ruffled gills and intentional generalities bird colour, a blunt thing the way the initial hards cs pile up higher and higher, and then, just when you think you re done, he throws in oneto start the final sentence, and then lets you relax into grace not many can pull that off Don t worry, the bird is okay in the end, too Similarly, there s a scene at the end of chapter 12, too long to quote, in which a train makes its way through the city, which is simply too good.Well, well It is also, in the end, a book about how good will triumph over evil, and how nature mysticism, art, the major world religions and general kindness are all one, and all good The plot is a fine, but overly schematic, retelling of the great world religious myths That s okay White, like Joyce, is a great wordsmith, and it would be silly to read him for ideas not because his ideas are bad or wrong, but they are uninteresting I, too, hope that good triumphs over evil But that train in the city Sodom had not been softer, silkier at night than the sea gardens of Sydney The streets of Ninevah had not clanged with such metal The waters of Babylon had not sounded sadder than the sea, ending on a crumpled beach, in a scum of French letters Nobody is better than White at coming close to intellectual and aesthetic collapse and somehow saving his sentences with a phrase Who are the riders in the Chariot, eh, Mary 14asked Miss Hare s father when she was still fresh and innocent and uncorrupted by years of forced isolation Mary Hare is now an eccentric spinster who lives in the wilderness her long gone parents decaying estate has become Considered socially inept, she seeks refuge in the natural world where her sharp solitude can be soothed by bizarre visions of a riderless golden chariotThere is the Throne of God, for instance That is obvious enough Who are the riders in the Chariot, eh, Mary 14asked Miss Hare s father when she was still fresh and innocent and uncorrupted by years of forced isolation Mary Hare is now an eccentric spinster who lives in the wilderness her long gone parents decaying estate has become Considered socially inept, she seeks refuge in the natural world where her sharp solitude can be soothed by bizarre visions of a riderless golden chariotThere is the Throne of God, for instance That is obvious enough all gold, and chrysoprase, and jasper Then there is the Chariot of Redemption, muchshadowy, poignant, personal 129 Mr Himmelfarb is a scholarly Jewish immigrant who survived the terrors of Auschwitz but lost his faith in intellect when the beast of humanity drained him of his lifeblood He is now a hermit who nourishes his guilt with menial work, carries a self imposed cross of a scapegoat and prays to the faceless rider of the Chariot of Redemption to be saved from existenceShe had her own vision of the Chariot Even now, at the thought of it, her very centre was touched by the wings of love and charity 478Charitable Mrs Godbold such an apt surname bears the life sentence of love and labour First a maid and now a laundress trapped into a bad marriage with too many children, she believes Bach s music to be the proof of God s existence and her duty to spread his gospel not in vacuous words but in tangible good deedsJust as he had not dared completely realize the body of Christ, here the Chariot was shyly offered 449Dubbo is an Australian aborigine raised by an English missionary who clings to the margins of a bigoted society and exorcises his inner turmoil with brush, palette and oil paints His aim is to map the contours of his life and art in permanent spiritual expression.Set in the contemporary Australia of massive migration and post war expansion, these Dostoevskian four characters are irreparably bound together by ecstatic hallucinations of an empty Chariot Allegorical riders galloping in barbed unison for an apocalyptic climax or mere outcasts searching for serendipitous absolution The novel will appeal both to followers of the burlesque morality play and to subscribers of cathartic drama.Patrick White imposes numinous pondering impregnated with stylized mysticism and atypical religious imagery on his literary creations, which suffer either from the commonality of simple mindedness or the curse of alienation foisted by a detached, vicious society It s precisely through the prism of these marginalized characters that the reader can discern a plain philosophy, maybe idealistic but of a vast scope, of bounding the transcendental with the simple and supple natural order of things, bestowing the dispossessed with blinding clairvoyance in the abiding status quo of self sacrifice over the rulers of a rigid social hierarchy.The voices of White s characters combine inner perceptions delivered in stream of consciousness technique and dialogues assimilating the theatrical satire that provide the narrative with an inexpressible musical tonality that is rather intuited than fully grasped Colors that recall the Australian landscape are emphasized in the text in arrhythmic cadence producing a peculiar lyricism that eludes standardized patterns of beauty but moves inwardly like an abstract painting.Some might perceive sardonic pessimism and bitter mockery interlocked within White s taut prose that avoids the precipice of sentimentality but I discern a deep sense of artistic independence that endorses the extraordinariness of the mundane and boosts its poetry and mystery following the English Romantics fashion as a conduit to reach existential lucidity and an indissoluble insight of the divine And reaching the pinnacle of spirituality devoid of dogma is for me miraculous enough to touch the electric blue vaults of heavenI saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception but my senses discover d the infinite in everything William Blake `EPUB ⇸ Riders in the Chariot ⇗ Patrick White s brilliantnovel, set in an Australian suburb, intertwines four deeply different lives An Aborigine artist, a Holocaust survivor, a beatific washerwoman, and a childlike heiress are each blessed and stricken with visionary experiences that may or may not allow them to transcend the machinations of their fellow men Tender and lacerating, pure and profane, subtle and sweeping, Riders in the Chariot is one of the Nobel Prize winner s boldest books