'This essay draws a comparison between two published memoirs of participants, both of them women writers, in the Hydra expatriate community of the 1950s and ’60s: Australian Charmian Clift’s Peel Me a Lotus, and Welsh artist and writer Brenda Chamberlain’s A Rope of Vines. As memoirs of female experience on Hydra the two texts have elements in common, but the contrasts are also stark. Whereas Clift focused on family life, the bucolic harbourside agora and the boisterous life of the taverns and kafenia, Chamberlain represented herself as being alone and declared, ‘the port and the people on it do not interest me.’ For Chamberlain, the dockside was a place of ‘unreal glamour’ that deadened her creative spirit as surely as it deflected Hydra’s international visitors from understanding the true nature of the island they superficially embraced.
'This essay discusses both Clift’s and Chamberlain’s responses to Hydra, examining how despite the differences in their memoirs, both writers can be seen to be working at a resolution of the conflicting aspects of Hydra the town and Hydra the island, as each woman struggles in her own way to realise the promise of ‘freedom.' (Publication abstract)
'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.' (Publication abstract)
'In one of her many essays, Charmian Clift writes of the melancholic experience of feeling like a photograph. She has been asked to address a group of students at Wollongong High School, a school she had attended, and in preparing her speech she turns to a photograph that appears in the school's fiftieth-anniversary commemorative booklet. The photograph depicts a class from Clift's time at the school, 'formally posed with the boys lined up behind the girls and their hands resting on the girls' shoulders' ('On Turning slightly Sepia', p. 48 (see References below)), and as photographs do it evokes in Clift's memory small details that are not evidenced in the image itself: 'I can still see one of those girls arched in a perfect swallow dive, and remember precisely a collar of little pearl buttons on a blue crepe dress that another of them wore to an end-of-term dance that year'(48). The photograph also prompts Clift to consider how different her teenage circumstances were from those of the students she is to speak to, their faces shining with the confidence that faith in the goodness of the future affords. Before those faces now momentarily turned to her, she thinks of herself as the past, and wonders, 'if they realized that standing up before them I knew myself to be curling at the edges and turning slightly sepia' (51).' (Publication abstract)