Tag: Obelisk Press

Olympia Press; Controversy & Erotic Fiction

Posted November 16, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 4 Comments

It’s hard to imagine a life without a freedom to talk openly about sex. Before the sexual revolution things were completely different and there were two publishers that pushed the boundaries. In 1929 an English man named Jack Kahane formed Obelisk Press, based out of Paris. His goal was to publish books other publishers would not touch for fear of prosecution. Though Obelisk Press went bankrupt, it paved the way for dbs (dirty books) later known as Erotic Fiction. Obelisk Press published books like Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, DH Lawrance’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover & James Joyce’s Haveth Childers Everywhere (often considered a working progress of Finnegans Wake).

While Jack Kahane laid the ground work, it was his son Maurice Girodias, who pushed the envelope on censorship. In 1953 Maurice started Olympia Press, a rebranded Obelisk Press which came under fire straight away for Austryn Wainhouse’s English translations of Marquis de Sade’s Justine. In a move that put Olympia Press under a lot more fire, Maurice started offering good money for dbs, though most of these books were eventually banned they were able to make a small profit before being removed from the shelves. Obelisk Press were responsible for such books like Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs & The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy.

Though both publishers ended in bankruptcy, they did pave the way with controversy and erotic fiction in English literature. Apart from the controversy it start the ball rolling for other authors and took the risk in publishing book others wouldn’t. What would books be like nowadays if no one printed books like Lolita, The Naked Lunch or James Joyce’s works?