Muswell Press is to publish two memoirs of life in the Greek islands by Australian author and essayist Charmian Clift, to be available in the UK for the first time in 20 years.
The press acquired UK and North American rights, including audio, for Mermaid Singing and Peel Me a Lotus from Jane Novak at the Jane Novak Agency in Sydney.
The books, which were originally published in 1956 and 1959 respectively, will both feature new introductions by Polly Samson, journalist and novelist.
Sarah Beal and Kate Beal at Muswell Press said: "It was reading Polly Samson’s Sunday Times bestseller A Theatre for Dreamers (Bloomsbury) that led us to discover Charmian Clift’s writing. These two memoirs of her life in the Greek Islands in the late 50s blaze with warmth, wit and character. We are so pleased to be making Charmian’s books available for the first time in 20 years and we are particularly delighted that Polly has agreed to write new introductions for each of our new editions."
The publisher's synopsis explains: "In 1951 the Australian writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston left post-war London for Greece with children in tow. Settling first on the tiny sponge-fishing island of Kalymnos, then moving to Hydra, their plan was to live simply and focus on their writing, away from the noise of the big city. The result is two of Charmian Clift's best known and most loved books. These two memoirs Mermaid Singing and Peel Me a Lotus paint a vivid picture of the characters and sun-drenched rhythms of traditional island life, long before mass tourism descended.
"During their 10 years in Greece, Clift and Johnston became the centre of an informal community of artists and writers including the then unknown Leonard Cohen, who became their lodger, and his future girlfriend Marianne Ihlen. As Leonard Cohen said, ‘they were an inspiration'".
Commenting on tha acquisition, Samson said: "I am so happy that Muswell Press will be reissuing both volumes of Charmian Clift’s astonishing memoirs. Since my novel A Theatre for Dreamers (in which Clift appears as a main character) was published in April there has not been a day that someone hasn’t contacted me wanting to read her work which has been out of print for too long. It is a great privilege to be writing the introductions, especially as it entails re-immersing myself in the world and words of such a powerful, brave and brilliant mind and writer."