- Paperback: 624 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (21 July 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 009932461X
- ISBN-13: 978-0099324614
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.2 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 188,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Vivisector Paperback – 21 Jul 1994
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"One of the greatest magicians of fiction ... White's scope is vast and his invention endless" (Observer)
"Patrick White is, in the finest sense, a world novelist. His themes are catholic and complex and he pursues them with a single-minded energy and vision" (Guardian)
"Australia's greatest novelist" (Geoffrey Rush)
A tour de force of sexual and psychological menaceSee all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
Not a fashionable book in many ways then, over-written for some tastes, long sentences and dares to take the possibility of a divinity seriously as the ultimate artist. Most books I read, I can predict pretty much what they are trying to do in a few pages and they have little to say and little to make me think and keep my interest. This is different, beautifully and shockingly truthful about human nature and its relation to acts of artistic creation, it will take you somewhere different to where almost anyone else is going. Half of you will probably hate it but just read the wretched thing..
As a member of the Courtney family, Hurtle travels and becomes educated, though he continues to interpret the world more visually than thoughtfully. For him, the usual emotional traumas of adolescence are accompanied by unique questions of his identity, both because of his two families and also because of his view of the world. Not religious, he sees God as the Great Vivisector, and men treating each other as animals. As an artist, he behaves as a vivisector himself, using women who love him as vehicles for his own self-expression. White says about his painting of one model, "[Hurtle] disemboweled her while she was still alive." Throughout his life, Hurtle continues to search for love, inspiration, self-expression, and some sort of balance in his life between his immense need to paint, his desire for personal connection, and his simultaneous need to be alone.
White's prose style is direct and concise, elegantly simple, and easy to understand.Read more ›
The central character, Duffield, is an Anglo-Australian who grew up in that period of bourgeois affluence stretching from the Edwardian age to the high 1920s. (He is, therefore, of the same generation as White.) Finding himself an artist by disposition, not choice, he shuns his background, the wealth, respectability, and leaves the country. There follows a lengthy period honing his abilities in depression-racked London, then he returns to Australia and leads a squalid existence, fretting over canvases and compositions, reviling the art scene and fashionable society. For many years he lives alone and isolated in a rural setting (shades of Hill End here), then relocates to a rundown terraced house in the inner suburbs (presumably Darlinghurst or Surrey Hills) Inch by inch, his work matures, evolves, intensifies. And, almost unnoticed, he develops a following, and the respect of the mighty.
Duffield is White's second attempt to portray an artist. The first had been the unrecognised, self taught painter, Dubbo, in his novel Riders In The Chariot. If this earlier creator figure was striving to make paintings of visionary intensity where sacred truths are revealed, "The Vivisector" shows an artist grappling to show a more pessimistic existentialist perspective of reality: where Dubbo is a romantic, Duffield is a bleak nihilist.Read more ›
The early section of the book, where Hurtle is identified as `different' by his working class parents due to the way he sees beauty in everyday objects is for me the most interesting. Set in rural Australia, It shows us how his mind is shaped in his early years, and the impact on him when he is essentially `sold' to a rich family who think of themselves as cultured enough to nurture Hurtle's genius. But he soon sees through this to his new Mother's and Father's internal weaknesses. This section is often written in second person, which is a rare form, but helps us to identify with the child Hurtle's thoughts and feelings and is extremely effective.
Central to the story is Hurtle's adoptive sister, who is disabled and disfigured. She becomes central to the artists paintings, and becomes one of the only characters that Hurtle shows unquestioning kindness to, although by this stage she has already been on the receiving end of some of his cruellest actions.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There's not a smidgen of lightheartedness here - even the humour is earnest. This is the best of White's novels I've so far read - an intense, deeply serious portrait of an artist... Read morePublished on 22 Nov. 2013 by RachelWalker
This is the relatively famous fictional semi-autobiographical story of the radical artist Hurt Duffield written in 1968. Read morePublished on 6 Jan. 2012 by H. Tee
The prior reviews do full justice to the synopsis and the themes explored so I won't attempt to enlarge on them. Read morePublished on 10 Aug. 2008 by John Ferngrove