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Monday, January 18, 2016

Voss (1957) by Patrick White

Book Review
Voss (1957)
by Patrick White

   I was so surprised that Werner Herzog hasn't made a film based on Voss, the 1957 Australian novel by Patrick White, that I had to check the internet to make sure that he hadn't.  Voss is a German explorer, based on the real life Ludwig Leichhardt.  In the mid 19th century, Leichhardt tried to traverse the continent of Australia, failing miserably and disappearing into the out back, never to be found.  The same could not be said of his possessions, which were periodically discovered in the custody of Aborigines, leading to speculation that Leichardt was murdered by them.

  Like a hero from a Werner Herzog movie, Voss moves against impossible odds, in the face of all rational thought.  He is joined on his fruitless quest by several locals and a few aborigine guides, all except one of whom desert him well before the end.   White includes almost 70 pages of post-script, with several chapters concerning the discovery of one of the members of the party, alive, some 20 years later in Sydney.  This post-script serves to wrap up the bizarre "love interest," Laura Trevelyan, a woman in Sydney.  Voss and Trevelyan have a sort of psychic bond even though they spend most of the book thousands of miles apart as Voss wanders in the desert.

  This not-love interest makes Voss even weirder than the explorer lost in the desert plot would make it seem.  Maybe more like Werner Herzog meet Sofia Coppola.

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