The Aboriginal and the Jew have a really important place in Patrick White’s Riders in the Chariot. They embody two outsiders who have the key to a kind of wisdom that is not available to many. What is extraordinary is the way that Patrick White locates the seminal meeting between these two central characters in a men’s toilet in a bicycle factory in the Western suburbs of Sydney. What we witness in the moment of connection as Mordecai intones Ezekiel passages from Alf’s Bible is a transfiguration of these two figures from the ordinary to the extraordinary- precisely what White was intent on doing (as seen from his essay “The Prodigal Son”. Reading the opening pages of Chapter 11 today, brought the imaginative depth and richness of White’s writing into focus. It is amazing that White had this extraordinary insight, back in 1961 to write about the creativity inherent in his Aboriginal character Alf Dubbo who plays a leading role in this novel Riders in the Chariot. In fact Alf Dubbo does turn into something like a Blakean artist in an Australian context- and it is an Aboriginal who is the bearer of this transformative imagination!!!The novel won the Miles Franklin award in the year it was published and then in 1965 won the Gold Medal of the Australian Literature Society. Patrick White’s instinct to celebrate his Aboriginal’s creative spirit was a powerful support to the gathering movement towards citizenship for all Aboriginals- finally announced in 1967.
But Alf Dubbo is much more than just an Aboriginal artist, he carries within him a powerful blend of what he has learned through his missionary upbringing and through the creative energy from his ancient traditions that still course through his veins. In a land which has all but lost any hint of true Christianity, Alf Dubbo, despite his desperate sickness, his place as a total outsider to the rest of society, in fact becomes the figure through whom essential Christianity is re-ignited . There is a masterful magic in his creation of the Deposition scene and of Ezekiel’s Chariot which show that through his creative energy he has broken through to a new level of understanding which no one else in the community can match. This is very close to what we have seen of William Blake’s role in England in the late 18th/ early 19th Centuries.
This is one of the most powerful celebrations of Aboriginal spiritual creativity produced by a white author in this country. Read this wonderful essay on Patrick White’s religion http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/05/28/3512429.htm
Blog Topics for Week 9
1/ Imagine yourself as Patrick White. A student or member of the public has asked him about why certain passages of his writing are so complex. Chose such a passage (about 4 lines in length) and as Patrick White answer the student/ member of the public, telling them why you felt you had to use this complex language.
2/ From the film in which David Marr is interviewed about Patrick White’s belief summarize briefly what you think Patrick White’s religious position is:
3/ In your own words describe a short conversation you have had with any one of the “Riders”: Mordecai HImmelfarb, Mary Hare, Mrs Godbold, Alf Dubbo
4/ Write a paragraph describing a painting using Patrick White’s technique of taking you inside the artist’s thinking. Chose a painting that you are not familiar with and reproduce the painting in your blog then write a “Whitean” description of the artist creating this work.
5/ Remember you can always construct your own question as a blog topic for this week (you might even find an interesting topic through the work you have been doing in preparing your “Blake” performances…..
Bosch’s Crucifixion upon which Patrick White probably based his scene in which Mordecai Himmelfarb, the Jew, is crucified by the Australian “Blue” on Good Friday.
Audio Lecture Part 2