An Expatriated Adventurer: Charmian Clift and the Utopian Possibility

Susan Carson


For 20 years Charmian Clift wrote fiction and non-fiction from locations in Australia, England and Greece. When she returned to Australia from Greece in 1964, she explored new career opportunities in newspapers and television. Throughout this long period of publication Clift worked on an autobiographical fiction that she hoped to publish when time permitted. This paper examines the dimensions of a utopian spirit that supported Clift’s journey across countries and genres in search of an authorial self in which she felt most ‘at home. Travel memoir, journalism and fiction, as well as extracts from Clift’s unfinished autobiographical work ‘The End of the Morning,’ are examined to describe her engagement with utopian principles as a way of achieving, through writing, social change and personal fulfilment.


Expatriation; Charmian Clift; Utopian writing; Life writing; travel writing; Peel me a Lotus; Honour's Mimic; George Johnson; Images in Aspic

Full Text:



Ashcroft, Bill. ‘The Ambiguous Necessity of Utopia: Post-Colonial Literatures and the Persistence of Hope’. Social Alternatives 23.3 (2009): 8–14.

Bloch, Ernst. The Principle of Hope. Trans. Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight. Cambridge: MIT P, 1995 [1953, 1959].

Boelhower, William. ‘Ethnic Biography and Autobiography’. Melus 9.2 (1982): 5–23.

Claeys, Gregory, Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.

Clift, Charmian. ‘An Exile’s Return’. Images in Aspic. Sydney: Collins, Angus Robertson, 1992. 93–96.

---. ‘Autobiography in the Novel’. Australian Author 1.2 (1969): 3–7.

---. ‘Banners, Causes and Convictions’. The World of Charmian Clift. Sydney: Ure Smith, 1970. 253–55.

---. Being Alone with Oneself: Essays 1968–1969. Ed. Nadia Wheatley, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1991.

---. ‘Charmian Clift Collection’. National Library of Australia. MS 7839.

---. ‘Greener Grows the Grass’. Charmian Clift Collection. National Library of Australia. MS 7839.

---. Honour’s Mimic. London: Hutchinson, 1964.

---. Images in Aspic. Sydney: Collins Angus and Robertson, 1969.

---. Mermaid Singing. London: Michael Joseph, 1958.

---. ‘Omens of Promise’ Images in Aspic. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1992 [1965].141–44.

---. ‘On Being a Home-Grown Migrant’. Trouble in Lotus Land. Ed. Nadia Wheatley. Sydney: Collins, Angus & Robertson, 1991. 100–103.

---. ‘On Clean Straw for Nothing’. Being Alone with Oneself: Essays 1968–1969. Ed. Nadia Wheatley, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1991. 310–16.

---. Peel Me a Lotus. London: Hutchinson 1959.

---. ‘Report from a Home-Grown Migrant, Three Years After’. Being Alone with Oneself: Essays 1968–1969. Ed. Nadia Wheatley. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1991. 246–49.

---. ‘The End of the Morning’. Charmian Clift Collection. National Library of Australia. MS 7839.

---. Trouble in Lotus Land. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1990.

Dalziell, Tanya and Paul Genoni. ‘Australians in Aspic: Picturing Charmian Clift and George Johnston’s Hydra Expatriation’. Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 15. 3 (2015): 1–23.

de Berg, Hazel. ‘Conversation with Charmian Clift’. 8 June 1965. Oral History Collection. National Library of Australia.

Genoni, Paul and Tanya Dalziell. ‘George Johnston’s Tibetan Interlude: Myth and Reality in Shangri-La’. Journeys 18. 2 (2017): 1–27.

Johnston, George. Papers. National Library of Australia. MS 5027.

Johnston, George and Charmian Clift. High Valley. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1949.

---. The Sponge Divers. London: Collins, 1955.

Johnston, Martin. Interview. Radio National. 1 Feb. 1986. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Luckins, Tanja. ‘Domesticating Cosmopolitanism: Charmian Clift’s Women’s Column in The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Herald in the 1960s’. History Australia 11.3 (2014): 97–115.

May, Vanessa. ‘Self, Belonging and Social Change’. Sociology 45.3, (2011): 363–78.

Miller, Henry. The Colossus of Maroussi. Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield P, 1942.

Sayre, Robert F. ‘Autobiography and Images of Utopia’. Salmagundi 19 (1972): 18–37.

Sotiris, Jorge. ‘Who Cares for Cohen? Revisiting the ‘Australia House’ on Hydra’. Griffith Review 2.29 (2010): 76–86.

Sriber, Ruth. ‘Australians Find a Dream Life on the Isles of Greece’. Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 July 1960: 15–16.

Thompson, Peter. ‘Introduction: The Privatization of Hope and the Crisis of Negation’. Eds. Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek. The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia, 2013.

---. ‘What is Concrete about Ernst Bloch’s “Concrete Utopia?”‘ Utopia: Social Theory and the Future. Eds. Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Keith Tester, London: Routledge, 2016. 33–46.

Vieira, Fátima. ‘The Concept of Utopia’. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Ed. Gregory Claeys. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. 3–27.

Wheatley, Nadia. The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift. Sydney: Harper Collins, 2001.


  • There are currently no refbacks.