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Maurice Girodias (1919 - 1990)

Related: Olympia Press - publishing - erotic fiction

"Writing d.b.'s (dirty books) was generally considered a useful professional exercise, as well as a necessary participation in the common fight against the Square World -- an act of duty." -- Maurice Girodias


Maurice Girodias was the founder of The Olympia Press, at one time the owner of his father's Obelisk Press, and spent most of his productive years in Paris.

Born in 1919, the son of Jack Kahane and a French heiress, Maurice lived a relatively idyllic childhood, until the Depression forced his father to take up a new profession: publishing risque books in English at Paris for the consumption of foreign tourists, who because of censorship could not obtain such materials at home. Paris censorhip laws had a loophole allowing English works to be published relatively securely.

Kahane's venture (Maurice later took his mother's maiden name to hide his Jewish background from the Nazis) was called the Obelisk Press, and it published notorious works by Frank Harris, Henry Miller and Anais Nin, as well as several pieces of light erotica scribed by Kahane himself.

Maurice's involvement with his father's business started early. In 1934, at the age of 15, Girodias drew the disturbing crab picture seen on the cover of Tropic of Cancer. After his father's untimely death in 1939, Maurice took over publishing duties, and at the age of 20 managed to survive Paris, World War II, Occupation and paper shortages.

After the war, with his brother Eric Kahane, Maurice expanded operations, publishing Zorba the Greek and Miller's Sexus, among other texts. The latter volume touched off a firestorm in Frances, with trials and arrests for obscenity. The Affaire Miller ended with Maurice out of jail, but bankrupt and no longer in control of his company. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Girodias [Aug 2005]

Venus Bound (1996) - John De St. Jorre

  1. Venus Bound: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press and Its Writers (1996) - John De St. Jorre [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    A tale intriguing for its novelty, its insight into modern literary history, and the thread of social history that runs throughout, Venus Bound is the true story of Olympia Press. The company spent decades pushing the censorship envelope by publishing ground-breaking literature from authors such as Henry Miller, William Burroughs, and Vladimir Nabokov. To subsidize this high-minded adventure, Olympia pumped out a line of plain old dirty books. John de St. Jorre follows the venture from its inception just after World War I until its demise during the liberated 1960s and 1970s.

    Anyone old enough to have traveled in Europe in the 1950s and '60s probably remembers those green paperbacks with black lettering, affectionately known by both their creators and many of their readers as dirty books; the best "DBs," by common consent, were those published by Maurice Girodias at the Olympia Press in Paris. If that were all Girodias did, he would be no more than a shabby footnote to literary history; but because his press, in those puritanical times, was the only one on either... read more --From Publishers Weekly

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