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George Johnston

George Johnson died in 1970, at the age of 59, after a long battle with tuberculosis. Clean Straw for Nothing, first published in 1969, and A Cartload of Clay, first published in 1971, completed his Meredith trilogy – the first book of which is the highly acclaimed My Brother Jack. Despite a lack of formal education, Johnston became a renowned journalist and one of Australia’s foremost war correspondents. The latter saw him travel extensively throughout the war and included his presence on board the USS Missouri for the signing of the peace treaty. His marriage to the writer and essayist Charmian Clift not only lead to further travel and their experience of expatriate life in England and in Greece, but also to much romanticising of their lives together. In many respects this has distracted attention from their distinctive and respective writing achievements. Both My Brother Jack and Clean Straw for Nothing won the Miles Franklin award and, in 1969, Johnston was awarded an OBE. Clean Straw for Nothing and A Cartload of Clay are introspective, cynical and bittersweet memories of a man torn between his past and present whilst enduring illness and contemplating death. Although written in differing styles, the search for answers to a convoluted past and a quest for meaning and truth make both books a remarkable memorial to George Johnston.