Patrick White, a British-born writer whose Nobel prize-winning fiction drew inspiration from life in Australia's outback, has died, his literary agent said Monday. White was 78.

Barbara Mobbs, White's agent, said the author died in Sydney, Australia, Sunday of respiratory failure after a lengthy illness.White, a rancher-turned-writer, frequently set his novels in the outback. Considered one of Australia's leading authors, his works were required reading in many high schools and universities.

The Sydney Morning Herald eulogized White as the "greatest Australian writer to date by far."

"He transcended the cultural divisions from the past. He was both contemporary and a traditionalist, an Australian and simultaneously an international writer," the newspaper said.