The Late Great: Patrick White (video)

(Click to watch video.)

(Click to watch video.)

A novel manuscript entitled ‘The Hanging Garden’, unfinished at the time of its author Patrick White’s death, is set to be published in 2012 to mark the centenary of the author’s death. White stipulated in his will that the manuscript be destroyed, but his literary executor, Barbara Mobbs, took a decade to decide to disregard his instructions. The handwritten manuscript has been transcribed and typeset, but publication arrangements are yet to be formalised.

In a country that tends to forget its writers all too quickly, Patrick White bucks the trend. Every book written by Australia’s only Nobel laureate in literature is still in print - except for his first novel, Happy Valley, extant copies of which fetch prices in the thousands.

Literature has a long tradition of publishing unfinished, unauthorised works by writers. The publication of David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel, The Pale King, is nigh. The Salmon of Doubt, an unfinished novel by Douglas Adams, was published a year after his death. Dimitri Nabokov published his father’s unfinished novel, The Original of Laura, to widespread dismay in 2009. Max Brod famously disregarded Franz Kafka’s instruction to burn his life’s work - and in so doing changed the course of literature and, perhaps, human experience.

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