Dr Gertrude Glossip: The Lascaris-White Centuries
Dear blaze readers, if you were asked to name iconic Australian couples whom would you cite – Sir Robert and Dame Pattie, Dame Joan and Richard, Gough and Margaret, Malcolm and Tammy?
Love them or hate them, many Australians would recognise these couplets. Would you name any queer couples – Bob and Paul, Penny and Sophie, Michael and Johan, Kerryn and Jackie?
Until recent years this wouldn’t have been likely given the hidden nature of our ‘forbidden love’. But surely there is one iconic couple many would recognise - Patrick and Manoly. Here we have a homosexual relationship between one of Australia’s greatest writers Patrick White (our sole literary Nobel Laureate) and Manoly Lascaris.
Their relationship began in the early 1940s when both were servicemen in WW11 and ended with Patrick’s death in 1990 - an enduring relationship of almost 50 years; a testament that gay relationships do survive, and from a period when there was much hostility to the very idea of homosexuality, let alone two men living together!
Both were born in 1912, Patrick 28 May and Manoly 5 August. In their centenary year it’s fitting that Australia, queer and straight, honours one of its greatest sons, indeed one of its greatest homosexual sons, and his loving relationship with Manoly whom David Marr credits as the driving force who kept White to his literary labours. Ah, behind every great gay man…!
Have you read White? Have you seen his plays? Will recounts how he ‘discovered’ White one night in 1983. Returning to his St Kilda flat after an evening shift he flicked on the radio as was his wont; Robyn Williams was introducing The Science Show. Williams then broadcast a speech that White had recently delivered to an anti-nuclear war symposium.
Will recounts being transfixed; profoundly moved and impressed by the eloquence and passion of this man. Next day he rushed out and purchased his first White novel and then progressively ‘devoured’ his whole opus. He’s been a committed White fan ever since; Riders in the Chariot rather than Nobel Prize winning Voss remains his fave.
Dear readers, we’re off on a little European jaunt - Helsinki, Prague, Berlin, Vienna and Budapest. We’re taking The Twyborn Affair and Flaws in the Glass as our travelling companions. I urge you to read or reread White during his centenary year and so honour the memory of a great Australian and his enduring relationship with Manoly, the gentle and urbane face of White’s life partnership. I conclude with some White wisdom: “anything of importance – like a garden, a human relationship, a child, a religious faith, even the most convinced brand of atheism has to be worked on constantly if it is to survive.” Good White reading!