"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Monday, 14 September 2009

Manoly Lascaris, Partner of Patrick White

I have just received a fascinating book about Manoly Lascaris who was for many years the partner of the Australian novelist Patrick White. The book consists of records of the conversations its author, Vrasidas Karalis, associate professor in Modern Greek Studies at the University of Sydney, had over a seven year period as a young man with Lascaris, or "Mr Lascaris" as he insisted on being addressed. The conversations took place in Greek but the writing here in English is sharp and vivid. Vrasidas Karalis, whom I met in 2007 in Oxford when we were both delivering papers at a conference on Bruce Chatwin, is a very engaging, lively, and, on the evidence here, deeply tolerant thinker who put up cheerfully (mostly!) with the haughty patrician putdowns of Lascaris – who considered that he was descended from the Byzantine aristocracy. His bark, however, may have been worse than his bite and, in spite of his constant rebukes to his young interlocutor he clearly enjoyed the opportunity to talk about life and art in what is no less than a modern Socratic dialogue. One learns little about Patrick White, whom Vrasidas Karalis was translating at the time, and nothing about what Lascaris referred to as "the erotics" of his partnership with White, but it is a fascinating encounter with a provocative thinker who has previously not been allowed to come out from under the shadow of the Great Novelist. As Vrasidas Karalis says at one point: "Like Socrates, Lascaris was a wise old man who revealed unexpected truths through whimsical jokes and clumsy gestures." And again: "Manoly Lascaris never wrote anything, but he was a truly eloquent talker. He went directly to the heart of the matter, avoiding the periphrastic mannerisms of professional thinkers. He was a catalyst; his observations reduced everything to the basics." I strongly recommend this vigorous dramatic enactment of a surprising and unusual intellectual encounter.
The book is published in Australia by Brandl & Schlesinger

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