'People need an identity, they can't exist without one'
-Morris West, writing as 'Faber West'
Morris West was
undoubtedly a writer of great inner complexity. As one of Australia's
most prolific and successful authors, West reached a pantheon of
commercial success many authors only dream about: sales of upwards of
60 million books, international best sellers, translations into 27
languages, film adaptations starring Anthony Quinn and Lawrence
Olivier, and successful stage productions of his plays.
Yet, as Maryanne Confoy skilfully portrays,
West was a man of many masks behind which lay the inner conflicts that
served to shape his life and his writing.
As a promising young scholar, and an
individual seemingly naturally suited to joining the Order, West
appeared to have his life clearly mapped out for him. In his
abandonment of the Congregation and his failure to commit to the path
of ordination, West's rejection of a life amongst the Clergy would not
only have a profound effect on the course of his life as a man, but
also on his intellectual genesis as a writer and his struggle to
reconcile his 'divided self'.
In combining stringent research with real
insight into West's complex character, Confory has written an engaging
and highly informative portrait of West that will appeal to many
readers both here and overseas. As a writer, cosmopolitan, religious
observer, commentator, raconteur, and above all, Believer, Morris West
was undoubtedly a man of many parts. As Confoy's book title adeptly
implies, West was a maverick in life and art whose presence on the
Australian literary scene was both weighty and worthy of our deeper
A review of Morris West: Literary Maverick by Maryanne Confoy, John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2005, ISBN 1 740 31119 1, 372 pp, forthcoming May/June, Good Reading Magazine: the Magazine for Book Lovers, www.goodreadingmagazine.com.au/