The Price of the Writing Life

All event photos courtesy of Bruce Postle

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Charmian Clift and George Johnston were the power couple of Australian literature in the mid 20th century. He was a celebrated war correspondent who went on to become a great novelist. She was a pioneering feminist whose newspaper columns and books transformed the landscape for a generation of women.

On the idyllic Greek island of Hydra in the 1950s and 60s, in company with Leonard Cohen and other literary luminaries, they wrote some of their best work – before their world fell apart. Clift died from an overdose of sleeping pills in 1969. Johnston was dead a year later.

Johnston and Clift were devoted to their writing. It enriched their lives but, ultimately, was instrumental in their self-destruction. Was it worth it? And what is the cost for others dedicated to a life of writing?

Half a century after their deaths, we celebrated two brilliant careers with Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell – authors of Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964 – in conversation with Martin Flanagan. The event also featured a digital exhibition of photos - and the brilliant Erica Bramham performed songs of Leonard Cohen.

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