Morris Langlo West


NPG x88833; Morris Langlo West by Pamela Chandler
Morris Langlo West was an Australian novelist and playwright, best known for his novels : THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (1959), THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN (1963) and THE CLOWNS OF GOD (1981).  His books were published in 27 languages and sold more than 60 million copies ——worldwide.  Each new book he wrote, after he became an established writer, sold more than 1 million copies.
His works, often, focussed on international  politics and the role of the Roman Catholic Church in international affairs.  THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN (1963) describes the election and career of a Slav as Pope, 15rys before the historic election of KAROL WOJTYLA as Pope John Paul —-2.  The sequel, THE CLOWNS OF GOD ( 1981), described a successor Pope, who resigned The Papacy to live in seclusion.
A major theme of West’s work was a QUESTION —– when so many organisations use violence  towards evil ends, when and under what circumstances is it morally acceptable for their opponents to respond with violence.  He wrote, with little revision.  His 1st longhand version, was usually not very different from the final printed version.  Despite winning many prizes and being awarded honorary doctorates, he never won the acceptance of the Australian Literary Clique.  West was awarded the 1959 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (1959).  In the 1960s, he helped found the Australian Society of Authors.  In 1993, west announced that he had written his last book and a formal Valedictory Dinner was held in his honour.  However, he found he could not retire, as he had planned, and wrote a further 3 novels and 2 non-fiction books.
He died, while working at his desk on his final chapters of his novel THE LAST CONFESSION, about the trials and imprisonment of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake, for HERESY, I 1600. He wrote the novel in the form, of a diary that Bruno might have written —– knowing that execution was approaching.  The diary was intended to cover the period —- 21/12/1599 — 17/02/ 16000; however it covers just 14days.  The entry, West was writing, when he died, was dated 04/01/1600 —— and he had written only about half as much as he had intended.  The last paragraph was poignant —-I CAN WRITE NO MORE TODAY ………………….WHO KNOWS TO WHAT NIGHTMARES I MIGHT WAKE.  His family decided to publish it in 2000, in an incomplete form and without editing, leaving readers free to imagine how the story might have ended.  It has a foreword by Thomas Keneally, an editor’s note by his publisher —Angelo Loukakis and an epilogue, co-written by his assistant, Beryl Barraclough and his widow, Joy West.
West was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours of 1985.  He was upgraded to Officer of the Order in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 1997.
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