The Internationalists: Australian Writers and Contemporary Greece

Anne Pender


The expatriate Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders and Americans who lived on the Greek island of Hydra in the 1950s and ’60s were a mix of fiction writers, poets, musicians, painters, journalists and photographers. Politically, many of them would have described themselves as internationalists. George Johnston wrote his novel My Brother Jack (1964) while he and Charmian Clift lived on Hydra, and with it he said he rediscovered Australia.


The contemporary Australian writers Susan Johnson and Meaghan Delahunt have each been inspired in their own work by the fiction and memoir of Johnston and Clift. Both Johnson and Delahunt have spent long periods of their lives as expatriates themselves, living in the UK and other parts of Europe. In spite of the achievements of Johnson and Delahunt as novelists, their writing has been largely overlooked by critics. This article examines their work in relation to expatriatism, internationalism and the politics of contemporary Europe.


The article examines Susan Johnson’s reimagining of the lives of George Johnston and Charmian Clift in The Broken Book (2004) in 2019, 50 years after Clift’s death. It also explores Delahunt’s To the Island (2011), which is set on Naxos. The essay articulates the ways in which Johnson and Delahunt have internationalised Australian literature as a direct result of their expatriate experiences.

Anne Pender holds the Kidman Chair in Australian Studies at the University of Adelaide. In 2018 she was based at Harvard on a Fulbright Senior Scholarship. Anne's recent publications include Seven Big Australians: Adventures with Comic Actors (2019), 'Courage: On the Record with Geraldine Brooks' (2019), Players: Australian Actors on Stage, Television and Film (2016), From a Distant Shore: Australian Writers in Britain 1820-2012 (2013), co-authored with the late Bruce Bennett, and One Man Show: The Stages of Barry Humphries (2010).


Meaghan Delahunt, Susan Johnson, Expatriates, Greece

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