Back to books
NewSouth NewSouth

Sneaky Little Revolutions

Selected essays of Charmian Clift

edited by Nadia Wheatley

Notify me

‘I know it’s a daring suggestion, but I’ll make it anyway.’

Charmian Clift was a writer ahead of her time. Lyrical and fearless, her essays seamlessly the personal and the political.

In 1964, Charmian Clift and her husband George Johnston returned to Australia after living and writing for many years in the cosmopolitan community of artists on the Greek island of Hydra. Back in Sydney, Clift found her opinions were far more progressive than those of many of her fellow Australians.

This new edition of Charmian Clift’s essays, selected and introduced by her biographer Nadia Wheatley, is drawn from the weekly newspaper column Clift wrote through the turbulent and transformative years of the 1960s. In these ‘sneaky little revolutions’, as Clift once called them, she supported the rights of women and migrants, called for social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, opposed conscription and the war in Vietnam, acknowledged Australia’s role in the Asia-Pacific, fought censorship, called for an Australian film industry — and much more. In doing so, she set a new benchmark for the form of the essay in Australian literature.

‘When I first stumbled on Clift’s essays, twenty or more years ago, these trashy essays written for a disposable occasion seemed to me to have more lightning and quicksilver, more brilliance and more skill of execution, than any Australian writing other than the great novels of Patrick White and Christina Stead.’ — Peter Craven, Sydney Morning Herald

‘Charmian Clift was ahead of her time and yet also representative of them. Her essays are a fascinating, thoughtful – sometimes judgemental, sometimes lyrical – window into an Australia on the brink of change. Whether you always agree with her opinions or not, she writes like a dream and her voice is wry, insightful and self-aware. It is lovely to see her gaining the recognition she has long deserved.’ — Jane Caro, Walkley Award winning columnist and author

‘Reading these essays, it’s easy to see why Clift became a cult figure. The chatty, charming and sometimes slightly dippy persona distracts attention just enough from the steely intelligence, the sophisticated sentence structure and the passion for causes that characterise these pieces but might otherwise rather have alarmed her readers … In an era that hadn’t yet thought too much about these things, her columns demonstrated that a woman … could and should be an active citizen of the world.’ — Kerryn Goldsworthy, Australian Book Review

‘From the women’s pages of the Sydney Morning Herald, among advertisements for wrinkle cream and mini-skirts … Clift challenged a complacent society, fashioned a sly and elegant sedition: opposing Vietnam, unmasking materialism, championing equality for women.’ — Mark Tredinnick, The Book Bulletin

Coming soon

Enter your email below to be notified when this book is available.