Voss describes an epic journey, both physical and spiritual. The eponymous hero, Johann Voss, is based on Ludwig Leichhardt, the nineteenth-century German explorer and naturalist who had already conducted several major expeditions into the Australian outback before making an ambitious attempt to cross the entire continent from east to west in 1848. He never returned.
White re-imagines his story with visionary intensity. Voss's last journey across the desert and the waterlogged plains of central Australia is a true `venture to the interior'. But Voss is also a love story, for the explorer has become inextricably bound up with Laura Trevellyn, whose inner life, like his own, is at odds with the world. In language poetic and passionate, yet at the same time grounded by shrewd, often comic, social observations and naturalistic portrayals of a wide variety of characters - farmers, convicts, aborigines, the colonial middle class and their servants.
Patrick White is a rare and colossal talent of world stature, and the only Australian writer to have won the Nobel Prize. Thomas Keneally, who owed him no favours, justly said: `On his day, White is better than Faulkner.' White is the recipient of the only fan letter Salman Rushdie admits to having written to another author. He towers over the Australian literary landscape as does Goethe over German literature: lonely, vast, unique. He is not particularly difficult or tricksy, like his peers Nabokov or Beckett. His fiction is rooted in, and nourished by, the epic dramas of the great nineteenth-century/early twentieth-century authors like Thomas Hardy and D. H. Lawrence. He is both exciting and moving, understands women as few male novelists do, and addresses universal themes in a prose that is entirely and compellingly his own.