International authors in the Christesen archive

Postcard from Anais Nin to Clem Christesen
Postcard sent from Anais Nin to Clem Christesen, 1954

Though Meanjin’s current editorial policy is to publish only Australian writers, Christesen felt very comfortable moving within an international literary community. He wrote to Herbert Marcuse for comment on a special issue relating to conscription and Vietnam, for instance (Marcuse unfortunately did not have the time); and exchanged postcards with Anais Nin. International writers did not always warm to Christesen’s communications: Bertrand Russell, during his visit to Australia in 1950, wrote to Christesen telling him that a journal like Meanjin was unlikely ever to be financially sustainable, observing: ‘I could not therefore advise you not to enter upon such a project’ - by this point, of course, Meanjin had already been running for 10 years.

Through his overseas contacts, Christesen commissioned John Berger to write a review of the Twelve Australian Artists exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, London. Berger writes of a strange and inspiring unity between the artworks on display, a ‘unity [that] had nothing to do with any common style but with something much subtler: the birth of a national tradition.’ He admits that it ‘is difficult to describe this atmosphere, felt as I can only feel it from the outside’, quoting from poems by A.D. Hope and David Campbell, and letting his own impressions recede into the background. Australian literature sometimes considers international influence and opinion a form of cultural imperialism - A.A. Philips’ essay ‘Cultural Cringe’ (Meanjin, vol 9. no. 4, 1950) casts a long shadow. But there is no sense of this in Berger’s review: he identifies his role as an attentive viewer and listener, a guest who was fascinated to hear what Australians have to say.

Anais Nin postcard

Postcard from Anaïs Nin to Clem Christesen (front), 1954

Russell letter

Letter from Bertrand Russell to Clem Christesen, 23 March 1957


Letter from Clem Christesen to Bertrand Russell, 26 March 1957