Riders in the Chariot, Patrick White's international superseller at the time, was born from an incident in the late 40s, when a taxi driver, demanding the full fare of the journey from Sydney's Central Station to Petty's Hotel, was refused by White and began screaming "Go back to Germany!" White later confessed: "I think it was this more than anything which persuaded me to write the novel Riders". Fortunately, such germ was the foundation of one, perhaps the greatest, of the 20th century literary monuments, dense as the greatest novels are, but fleshy in the end, too much indeed. It is a plotless novel-as are most works by White, and if there's a plot, its one of living and surviving. The novel traces the lives of the 4 characters from their origin to their ends (something White is an undoubtful master doing, and White puts his hand on marvellous devices of narration as stream of conscioussness, epiphanies and of course, the wonderful and hillarious use of adjectives, though sometimes the image, nearer to incongruency but finally well put, is difficult to convey.
The chariot, itself, was familiar to Blake, Ovid, the apocalyptic writers of the Bible and to Redon. In White's chariot, as David Marr reported, "the riders are those who have known illumination as he had experienced it in mystical ecsatsy, in creation, music", etc. White wrote, according to his letters (to his Viking editor Ben Huebsch in February 1959): "What I want to emphasise through my four "Riders" - an orthodox refugee intellectual Jew, a mad Erdgeist of an Australian spinster, an evangelical laundress, and a half-caste Aboriginal painter- is that all faiths, whether religious, humanistic, instinctive, or the creative artist's act of praise, are in fact one". And for example, is a brilliant detail that in general, the novel is a study of GOOD people pitted against EVIL; nowadays... how nice!
Riders in the Chariot is not a novel easy to read, neither meant to be read to relax. As one of the 40 best Australian books ever, it's a work of pleasure for the deep and restless mind. A novel written to music, something important to the writer and the reader, and like a baroque piece exhibiting a down-to-earth accumulation of detail, this work is a must for anyone interested in the best literature of the past century and an innovative psychological narrative art that, in the hands of this Australian Nobel Prize winner, soars to the highest ranks.