February 2020 Non-Fiction Backlist Highlight Awards

Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra: 1955-1964 Paul Genoni, Tanya Dalziell


Paperback | Oct 2018 | Monash University Publishing | 9781925523096 | 304pp | 234x153mm | GEN | AUD$39.95, NZD$47.99

WINNER of the 2019 Prime Minister's Literary Awards

‘Their years in the Aegean may have been half perfect at best, but it was on Hydra that they connected to a place, a lifestyle and a community that allowed them to live and express themselves intensely, and as they wished. They refused to believe their dreams were an illusion, or that boldness, ambition and a leap-of-faith might not allow them to reach beyond the constraints of their birthright’.

Half the Perfect World tells the story of the post-war international artist community that formed on the Greek island of Hydra. Most famously, it included renowned singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and his partner Marianne Ihlen, as well as many other artists and writers including the Australian literary couple, Charmian Clift and George Johnston, who fostered this fabled colony.

Drawing on many previously unseen letters, manuscripts and diaries, and richly illustrated by the eyewitness photographs of LIFE magazine photo-journalist James Burke, Half the Perfect World reveals the private lives and relationships of the Hydra expatriates. It charts the promise of a creative life that drew many of them to the island, and documents the fracturing of the community as it came under pressure from personal ambitions and wider social changes. For all the unrealised youthful ambitions, internal strife and personal tragedy that attends this story, the authors nonetheless find that the example of these writers, dreamers and drifters continues to resonate and inspire.

'Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell have crafted a superb book that examines the dynamics of a group of singular individuals in a particular time and place. Deeply researched and erudite, written in an engaging style, and wonderfully illustrated, Half the Perfect World tells a story of Hydra as a home for creative bohemianism in the late '50s and early '60s....As much a labour of love as robust scholarship, sympathetic though by no means sentimental, Half the Perfect World avoids judgment or censure.' — Robert Clarke, Sydney Morning Herald

'Lovingly researched, carefully constructed, compelling.' — Glyn Davis, Australian Book Review — Books of the Year 2018