Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

Half the Perfect World

Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955–1964

By Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell


Half the Perfect World is a social and literary account of the expatriate artist community on the Greek island of Hydra from 1955 to 1964, and is richly illustrated by LIFE Magazine eye-witness photographer James Burke. Fostered by celebrated Australian literary couple Charmian Clift and George Johnston, this fabled ‘colony’ came to include renowned singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and numerous other writers and artists, including many whose youthful ambitions were never realised.

What brought this group to Hydra? What life did they live there? And what does their story reveal about the post-war world?

Looking at the Hydra expatriates through their writing, letters, diaries and photographs, Genoni and Dalziell identify a deep restlessness within a rapidly changing time of emerging social movements and counter-cultures, travel, tourism and leisure, shifting geo-political realities, incipient pop-cultures, new technologies of communication and entertainment, and altered understandings of what it meant to live as an expatriate artist.

About the Authors

Paul Genoni works with the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts at Curtin University. He is a former president of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, and co-editor (with Tanya Dalziell) of Telling Stories: Australian Life and Literature, 1935–2012 (2013).

Tanya Dalziell works in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia. She is the author of Settler Romances and the Australian Girl (2004), and co-editor (with Karen Welberry) of Cultural Seeds: Essays on the Work of Nick Cave (2009).

Media Inquiries

For media inquiries, please contact our Marketing Coordinator, Sarah Cannon.