Voss - discussion

SnakPatrick White 100th Anniversary Challenge

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Voss - discussion

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feb 27, 2012, 4:17 pm

Just in the first chapter of Voss I have developed admiration for the title character, abomination for the lieutenant, and deep curiosity about Laura Trevelyan. I'm waiting to see whether I can develop momentum when I have a longer period to give to it.


mar 6, 2012, 4:32 pm

Well, it turns out that Laura Trevelyan is the subject character of the novel despite the title, and an excellent, even if deluded, character she is. Her aunt and her cousin although set up as airheads turn out to have good character, and a number of other women in the novel are shown in good light. The men are competent supporting characters for the most part. Voss, himself, was fascinating and good until the middle when his gratuitous display of decisive strength alienated him from me irrecoverably.

There are a lot of good people in this novel. It is curious that a writer could find so many in his imagination to contribute to the strength of his work.

I think that this is the only novel that I will read for this challenge. I am, however, waiting to see what others have to say about it.


mar 6, 2012, 8:30 pm

Robert, it's a long time since I read Voss so I can't contribute much. I did, however, think it was excellent.

Why do you say that Laura is "deluded"?

mar 6, 2012, 10:30 pm

I think that she finds too much that is favorable in Voss. I know that in some takes on this he is divine, and he is something like that in the character Judd's view at the end, but I am taking the novel with my adverse view of Voss. I can understand how Laura came to be attached to him, but I don't believe that it is, after all, a proper attachment.


Redigeret: mar 7, 2012, 7:26 am

I agree that Voss is a flawed man. Is she just plain in love with him, despite his flaws? I think the attachment between the two is a metaphysical one, not real in the usual sense?? As I said, long time.

P.S. Congrats on completing the challenge!!!

mar 10, 2012, 2:18 pm

Now I'm wanting to go back to Voss, since I'm fairly certain I never finished it, despite really loving the prose. I will share my favorite quote from the novel, however:

"Few people of attainments take easily to a plan of self-improvement. Some discover very early their perfection cannot endure the insult. Others find their intellectual pleasure lies in the theory, not the practice. Only a few stubborn ones will blunder on, painfully, out of the luxuriant world of their pretensions into the desert of mortification and reward."

A bit moralizing, but very insightful, I thought.

mar 10, 2012, 8:14 pm

Yes, insightful.

Redigeret: apr 13, 2012, 7:41 am

This was the review I wrote of Voss when I read it a few years ago:

Patrick White’s 'Voss' is quite a deceptive novel. A German migrant to Australia, the novels ‘hero’ Johann Ulrich Voss plans to cross Australia. During the preparations for the trip, Voss meets Laura Trevelyan, the niece of one of the sponsors for his expedition. What makes this novel so extraordinary is how the writer convinces you of the power of an almost non-existent relationship. After 2 or 3 glancing meetings, and one exchange of letters, Voss and Laura separately convince themselves of a passion that drives both of them to extremis. This passion is both sustaining and destructive, and you are as consumed by it as they become. There is little that is not predictable in the story itself, but this high-wire act of emotional drive, and the colour of other friendships between the men who accompany Voss is what keep you turning the pages. ( ****1/2)

apr 15, 2012, 9:55 pm

Nice review Caroline.

Redigeret: apr 26, 2012, 10:20 am

Its also been quite a long time also since I read Voss, There is so much to revisit after I've finished Riders in the Chariot.

Laura appears to me to be Voss' pivot. The point where PW suggests the mad explorer is in balance, regardless of their few meetings. Laura believes in Voss therefore Voss believes back creating a thread of survival in the mad, bleak and unforgiving landscape of Voss' mind and follies (?). I'm sure there's a greater metaphysical (and better) explanation... definitely a re-read!!!

On a related note however, I attended the recent event at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne where Peter Craven was giving a talk on Voss (hosted by Ramona Koval), unfortunately it wasn't particularly insightful and Ramona suggested Voss could be filmed in 3D... dont get me started on that little quip! His writing deserves more than that pithy treatment. The Wheeler Centre usually records these events so it may be available some time soon (not available yet, refer to http://wheelercentre.com/videos).

Robert - Please dont give up on White after Voss either!...

Redigeret: apr 26, 2012, 4:05 pm

I would think that in filming Voss more consideration should be given to precision than depth; IMAX or some kind of high definition could bring out the quality of the landscape. Landscape is very important to the force of the novel, but it is in the end a story about people, and IMAX could overwhelm that story. I'd probably prefer a film with tight focus for the most part and gritty suggestion of the largely unseen landscape. You could do it on a back lot.


apr 27, 2012, 9:25 am

The idea of making Voss into a film has been argued about for years. I can't believe it will ever happen. It would be hard to portray the Laura/Voss relationship. Hmmm.

apr 30, 2012, 2:33 am

Robert/Amanda - I broadly agree however I would prefer them not dissect it into an idea of Australian landscape (albeit in IMAX or 3D) and lose that strong metaphysical edge in the novel, how does one translate something that largely exists in the mind into film?... it would be a grand psychotheraputic exercise...

jun 21, 2012, 5:18 am

I have just read Voss and my review is on the book page.

The 'great' Australian novel? I wonder what Australians think about that.