Patrick White's Hungarian Connection


  • Nourit Melcer-Padon The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Patrick White, Memoirs of Many in One, Imre Madách, collective unconscious


Memoirs of Many in One, Patrick White's last novel, is a challenging read. A fragmented plot-line serves to stage a numerous cast of diverse characters, all used to sustain the theatricals of a crazy old woman. Nonetheless, by following the clues White disperses in the text, one can discover a fascinating framework that makes this bread-crumbs-trail well worth the walk. A barely noticeable allusion to the epic poem of Imre Madách, a 19th century Hungarian writer, is the key to the unfolding of a double narrative structure. The master narrative, true to modern, post-structuralist format, is deconstructed and haphazard, whereas the underlying narrative is based on the older literary tradition of the morality play. Similarly, Alex, White's irresponsible and exacerbating protagonist may seem as an unlikely model for contemporary, romantic notions of freedom and self-fulfillment, yet she is used to debunk the very ideals she embodies. Despite her aspirations to selfish stardom, Alex's quest for forgiveness and absolution towards the end of her life is in line with the constitutive narrative of penance. At the same time, White uses his protagonist's journey to expose various European roots that cannot be severed and are still present in Australian culture.