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Australian literature

The Twentieth Century

The increasing industrialization of the early 20th cent. rendered the pastoral nature of most Australian literature anachronistic. The present century eventually produced greater sophistication and diversity among writers. Probably the most important Australian writer of the early 20th cent. was Henry Handel Richardson (pseud. of Ethel Richardson Robertson), whose autobiographical trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney (1930), presents a compelling portrait of Australian life. Richardson's reputation was matched at mid-century by Patrick White whose strong, somber novels, Australian in setting yet universal in theme, reveal the author's ambivalence toward his native land; White received the Nobel Prize in 1973.

Other notable 20th-century novelists are Brian Penton, Leonard Mann, Christina Stead (only one of whose novels is actually set in Australia), Arthur William Upfield (1888–1964), John O'Grady, Morris West, C. J. Koch, Peter Carey, Thomas Keneally, the aborigines Colin Johnson and Alexis Wright, and the Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan. After emigrating to Australia in 1950, the English novelist Nevil Shute subsequently produced novels with Australian settings and themes. Remarkably, in a nation with such natural and human wonders, there has not yet been a major Australian poet. Current claimants, however, include R. D. Fitzgerald, Kath Walker, Judith Wright, J. P. McAuley, Kenneth Slessor, Vance Palmer, and Chris Wallace-Crabbe.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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