They are satirist Barry Humphries, art critic Robert Hughes, feminist and academic Germaine Greer and poet, writer and broadcaster Clive James.
What’s unique about this series is that their remarkable individual and collective stories are authored and presented by Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson, who himself is an intrinsic part of the story. In 1965 Jacobson came to Australia to replace Germaine Greer at the University of Sydney. At one time he was married to an Australian; he also wrote a book about his travels in Australia and has over the years met all four of our key characters.
This ‘Gang of Four’ Australians literally changed the cultural landscape of their homeland from half a world away. Hughes, Humphries, Greer and James were a brilliant quartet of minds, war babies born to the cheerful cultural stillness of the Menzies era, who were the vanguards of enormous cultural change both in Australia and around the world.
They all left Australia as the 1960s beckoned. Germaine Greer wrote a book that literally rocked the planet, and then debated Norman Mailer in New York, winning his undying respect. Robert Hughes revolutionised the way we saw art and culture, and Barry Humphries rewrote the Australian lexicon, putting it back together with an ironic humour that now speaks to the heart of modern Australia.
As for Clive James, he became our favourite cultural critic – the everyman conquering ‘The North Face of Soho’. His 1983 book Brilliant Creatures inspired the title of this series.
Tuesday September 16 and 23 at 8.30pm ABC