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Who are our heroes? Charmian Clift and George Johnston?

Journos get online George Johnston Charmian Clift

Our online journalists: George and Charmian may both be familiar to you but if you were schooled in Australia, perhaps George more than Charmian.

George Johnston's My Brother Jack was on the  high school english curriculum, in Queensland where I was schooled. I loved it, mostly because it articulated the longing I had to leave. It made it seem possible. It gave it form.

Johnston was a reporter on The Argus until becoming a correspondent during WWII. As editor of the Australasian Post in the later 40s, he left his wife and his position after falling in love with another Post reporter, Charmian Clift. A novelist as well as journalist, he published numerous novels in Australia prior to a move to the UK, with his new family, where he became head of Associated Press.

This was all very interesting - an Australian living large in London: acclaimed author as well as head of what is still the premier news agency, but it was their move to the Greek Island of Hydra that captured my imagination. How luxurious and evocative must the dry heat and piercing sun of Greece have been after years in London. I imagined the colours and the heat, the deep ocean waters and the freedom of bringing up children in a foreign country, drinking retsina with Leondard Cohen and Marianne, between a stream of other fascinating visitors and locals, without a time table, without peers or parents, while in my plain catholic girls school uniform studying My Brother Jack and rolling around the word 'expatriate' in my head.

Charmian Clift, 1923-1969, Kiama girl, usherette, Women's Army Service Lieutenant, journalist and author whose four novels, acclaimed outside of Australia, barely rated a mention here in her lifetime.

Her life on the Greek islands and her childhood in Kiama are beautifully evoked in her novels, but for the Australian audience, she was better known for her more celebrated husband and her regular column in the Sydney and Melbourne Fairfax newspapers.

This is, of course, a ridiculously simplistic version of their fascinating lives - The Australian Dictionary of Biography has more information about Charmian Clift and George Johnston .

Phillip Adams' Late Night Live ran and interesting piece about them, following the publication of Half the Perfect World, (Monash University Publishing) by Tanya Dalziell and Paul Genoni, in 2018.




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