Patrick White explores the inner demons of the artist through Hurtle Duffield, an egotist incapable of loving anything except what he paints.
Duffield ruthlessly makes use of anyone who could help him become a better artist. Both men and women court and are courted by him during his long life. All end as victims of his art. He is the vivisector, dissecting their weaknesses with cruel precision: his sister’s deformity, a grocer’s moonlight indiscretion and the passionate illusions of his mistress, Hero Pavloussi. Only the egocentric adolescent he sees as his spiritual child elicits from him a deeper, more treacherous emotion.
Patrick White’s 1970 novel was one of the six books shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker, in 2010.