PATRICK WHITE was born in London in 1912 to Australian parents, returning to Australia at six months of age. At Cambridge University he studied languages and literature. In 1939 he published his first novel, Happy Valley, but his main ambition was to write for the stage. Bread and Butter Women and The School for Friends were produced in Sydney in 1935. In 1941 he wrote the novel The Living and the Dead. During the Second World War he served as an intelligence officer for the RAF in the Middle East and Greece. He returned to Australia in 1948. The Ham Funeral was written in London in 1947 and he completed the novel The Aunt’s Story on the sea voyage to Australia. White occasionally made public statements on national issues such as the war in Vietnam, environmental matters and Aboriginal affairs. In 1976 he withdrew from the Order of Australia in protest against some of the government’s policies. He contributed generously to Aboriginal schools, donated works by Australian painters to the Art Gallery of NSW and established the Patrick White Literary Award. He produced 13 novels, eight plays and numerous essays, poems, short stories and articles. He was awarded the Australian Literacy Society Gold Medal, the Miles Franklin Award and, in 1973, the Nobel Prize for Literature, the only Australian ever to have won this prize. He described his writing as a ‘struggle to create completely fresh forms out of the rocks and sticks of words.’