For almost twenty years Patrick White, the Australian novelist, has been respectfully considered as perhaps his country's most important contemporary although none of his books are either very inviting or very accessible. Symbolic abstractions lurk beneath a highly recalcitrant reality, or in the word of one of his commoner creatures, ""hidjus"" with a sour, purulent, flyblown ugliness. Persevere if you will with his larger than life sized portrait of an artist, Hurtle, scourged by an inner and ascendant vision which removes him from worldly concerns and rewards (fame, and later a knighthood rejected). He's adopted at an early age by the wealthy Courtneys and his hunchbacked, birthmarked half-sister repulses him although she will return at the close of his life. Sexuality occasionally distracts and drives him--the worn prostitute Nance who recognizes he's not '""uman""--equally briefly the self-denigrating Hero. But his relationships are only tangential as from his early austere rock paintings in the bush he goes onward and upward to his God paintings, ""God the Vivisector, God the Artist, God."" True, much of this has a savage and single-minded obsession which overrides the rank and disfigured aspects of existence but in the end the artist has isolated himself from the world and the book has collaterally immolated itself in its own grand conception.