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Today's quote:

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Half The Perfect World

Charmian Clift, George Johnston, Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen
Book available from Monash University Publishing

"The polished hill
The milky town
Transparent, weightless, luminous
Uncovering the two of us
On that fundamental ground
Where love's unwilled, unleashed, unbound
And half the perfect world is found."
Leonard Cohen ((September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016)


For me, the island of Hydra and my short work assignment in Greece will forever be one and the same. Too much work and too little time never allowed me to visit the island more than three or four times (things get a bit hazy after over 35 years).

Also, at least for me, Hydra Island and George Johnston and Charmian Clift will forever inextricably linked. It was on Hydra that Johnston and Clift connected to a place, a lifestyle and a community that allowed them to live and express themselves intensely, and as they wished.

They refused to believe their dreams were an illusion, or that boldness, ambition and a leap-of-faith might not allow them to reach beyond the constraints of their birthright. To listen to Philip Adams' Late Night Live interview, click here.

Of course, it all ended in tragedy: Clift killed herself a few years after moving back to Sydney, on 8 July 1969, the eve of the publication of Johnston's novel "Clean Straw for Nothing". In her posthumously published article 'My Husband George' she wrote: "I do believe that novelists must be free to write what they like, in any way they liked to write it (and after all who but myself had urged and nagged him into it?), but the stuff of which Clean Straw for Nothing is made is largely experience in which I, too, have shared and . . . have felt differently because I am a different person." A year later, Johnston died of tuberculosis, which he had contracted while living on the islands.
"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."



"Half the Perfect World" tells the story of the post-war international artist community that formed on the Greek island of Hydra. Most famously, it included renowned singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and his partner Marianne Ihlen, as well as many other artists and writers including the Australian literary couple, Charmian Clift and George Johnston, who fostered this fabled colony.



Recently, the book caught the eye of screenwriter Andrew Knight (Hacksaw Ridge, Rake, Jack Irish, The Water Diviner), a pre-eminent figure in the Australian screen industry who is now spearheading the project with Cascade Films alongside director Nadia Tass(Malcolm, Pure Luck, Amy, Matching Jack) and producers David Parker (Malcolm, The Big Steal, Fatal Honeymoon) and Carmel Meiklejohn (Fatal Honeymoon).

“We recently met with the producers, who put to rest our initial disbelief that they wanted to film the book. It was reassuring to learn that they share our commitment to charting the challenges facing those artists and writers who formed an unlikely expatriate community in the Aegean.” Associate Professor Dalziell said.

Filming of "Half the Perfect World" will commence in late 2021.

I very much look forward to seeing it. In the meantime, I still have the book which captures my time in Greece perfectly. At times I would put it aside and find it difficult to get back into the present time and place.

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