AustLit logo
NLA image of person
George Johnston George Johnston i(A650 works by) (birth name: George Henry Johnston) (a.k.a. G. H. Johnston)
Also writes as: Shane Martin
Born: Established: 20 Jul 1912 Malvern, South Yarra - Glen Iris area, Melbourne - Inner South, Melbourne, Victoria, ; Died: Ceased: 22 Jul 1970 Sydney, New South Wales,
Gender: Male
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

BiographyHistory

George Johnston was born in Melbourne and educated at state schools before becoming an apprentice lithographer. Several articles on sailing ships secured him a job as a journalist for the Argus, but it was his syndicated dispatches during World War II that attracted attention. During the 1940s he published several books and diaries on his experience of war in New Guinea, China, Burma and Italy. After the war he joined the Sydney Sun and was sent to London in 1951 as a European correspondent. Accompanying him was his second wife, Charmian Clift, who shared Johnston's passion for writing. In 1954 Johnston abandoned his career in journalism and moved to the Greek islands where he and Clift made a precarious living from their writing. But after he contracted tuberculosis, they returned to Sydney in 1964. That year, Johnston's semi-autobiographical novel, My Brother Jack, won the Miles Franklin Award.

Johnston's poor health produced a sense of mortality that drove him to concentrate on serious fiction, avoiding the pot-boilers that had provided his income in Greece. In 1965 Charmian Clift wrote the script for a televised version of My Brother Jack while Johnston worked on a sequel to his famous book. The novel became a trilogy after the publication of Clean Straw for Nothing, which also won the Miles Franklin Award in 1969, and the unfinished A Cartload of Clay (1971). The trilogy, drawing many elements from Johnston's life, dramatises the experience of David Meredith whose quest for meaning continues in each novel, but leaves him with the realisation that definitive meaning cannot be obtained and the search itself must be better appreciated.

In May 1970 Johnson was awarded the OBE for his services to literature. He died two months later. Johnston's work continues to be taught in schools and the continuing appeal of My Brother Jack was demonstrated in 2001 by a new television adaptation .

Most Referenced Works

Notes

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon Clean Straw for Nothing : A Novel London Sydney : Collins , 1969 Z825043 1969 single work novel

'Set against the backdrop of a Greek island, Clean Straw for Nothing follows the story of successful war correspondent and retired journalist David Meredith as he abandons his career for a life in exile with his beautiful wife Cressida. Johnston focuses on the developing relationship between David and Cressida, exploring the complex and reflective character of David as he questions the nature of success, sexual tensions, expatriation and ill-health. The questions are almost entirely unanswerable and the freedom David craves nearly impossible.'

— publisher's website

1969 winner Miles Franklin Literary Award
y separately published work icon My Brother Jack : A Novel London Sydney : Collins , 1964 Z824887 1964 single work novel (taught in 13 units)

''The thing I am trying to get at is what made Jack different from me. Different all through our lives, I mean, and in a special sense, not just older or nobler or braver or less clever.'

'David and Jack Meredith grow up in a patriotic suburban Melbourne household during the First World War, and go on to lead lives that could not be more different. Through the story of the two brothers, George Johnston created an enduring exploration of two Australian myths: that of the man who loses his soul as he gains worldly success, and that of the tough, honest Aussie battler, whose greatest ambition is to serve his country during the war. Acknowledged as one of the true Australian classics, My Brother Jack is a deeply satisfying, complex and moving literary masterpiece. ' (Publication summary)

1964 winner Miles Franklin Literary Award
y separately published work icon High Valley Sydney London : Angus and Robertson , 1949 Z829434 1949 single work novel
1948 winner The Sydney Morning Herald Literary Competition Prize of 2,000 pounds.

Known archival holdings

National Library of Australia (ACT)
University of Queensland University of Queensland Library (QLD)
Last amended 29 Mar 2017 13:44:30
See Also
Other mentions of "" in AustLit:
    X