Maurice Girodias

Last updated
Maurice Girodias
Girodias.jpg
Girodias photographed by Gilles Larrain
Born
Maurice Kahane [1]

(1919-04-12)12 April 1919
Paris, France
Died3 July 1990(1990-07-03) (aged 71)
Paris, France
NationalityFrench
Occupation Book publisher
Parent(s) Jack Kahane (18871939)

Maurice Girodias (12 April 1919 3 July 1990) was a French publisher who founded the Olympia Press, specialising in risqué books, censored in Britain and America, that were permitted in France in English-language versions only. It evolved from his father’s Obelisk Press, famous for publishing Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer . Girodias published Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita , J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man (involving a 20-year lawsuit), and works by Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs, John Glassco and Christopher Logue.

Contents

Early life

Girodias was born Maurice Kahane in Paris, France, the son of Manchester-born Jack Kahane and a French heiress, Marcelle (née Girodias). [2] His father was Jewish and his mother was Catholic. [3] [4] Girodias lived a relatively idyllic childhood until the Depression forced his father to take up a new profession in Paris, publishing risqué books in English for the consumption of foreign tourists, who because of censorship could not obtain such materials at home. French censorship laws had a loophole allowing English works to be published without domestic confiscation.

Kahane's venture (Girodias later took his mother's birth name to hide his partially Jewish background from the Nazis) was called Obelisk Press. It published notorious works by Frank Harris, Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, as well as several pieces of light erotica written by Kahane himself.

Girodias'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 original cover of Tropic of Cancer . After his father's early death in 1939, Girodias 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, Girodias expanded operations, publishing Zorba the Greek (in French) and Henry Miller's Sexus , among other texts. The latter volume touched off a firestorm in France, with trials and arrests for obscenity. The 'Affaire Miller' ended with Girodias out of jail, but bankrupt and no longer in control of his company.

The Olympia Press

Expatriate writer Austryn Wainhouse introduced Girodias to a number of writers living in Paris associated with Merlin, a literary review; in order "to publish books legally in Paris, [Merlin] needed to demonstrate to the French authorities it had a French business partner." [5] Girodias famously advised the group that the way out of poverty was for everyone to come and write dirty books for his new venture Olympia Press, which took its name from the similarity to his father's company, and Manet's famous portrait of a courtesan.

Among those who wrote for Girodias in the early days were American author Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, John Glassco and Christopher Logue. Alexander Trocchi, John Stevenson (Marcus Van Heller), Glassco and Logue penned "db's" ("dirty books") for the Atlantic Library Series, a short-lived line of erotica. Beckett published Watt and his Malone Trilogy through the more literary Collection Merlin. The South African poet Sinclair Beiles was an editor at Olympia.

After several police crackdowns, Girodias shifted his imprints, replacing the Atlantic Library with the Traveller's Companion Series, beginning with The Enormous Bed by John Coleman. Legal difficulties persuaded Girodias to include less openly erotic and more literary works in the series, and number six, Denny Bryant's Tender Was My Flesh, was followed by The Ginger Man , by J. P. Donleavy.

Other famous titles published in the Traveller's Companion Series were Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, a translation of Story of O by Pauline Réage, and Candy by Mason Hoffenberg and Terry Southern.

The Olympia Press also published The S.C.U.M. Manifesto , [6] which has since been published by other publishers [7] [8] and excerpted. [9]

Other Olympia Press imprints included Ophir Books, Ophelia Press and Othello Books.

The Ginger Man

Girodias, very much against Donleavy's intention, published The Ginger Man as pornography. He seemed unable to grasp the literary merit of the work. When he did belatedly understand that he had a brilliant and original book, instead of acknowledging this, he tried to steal the rights from the author. Girodias and Donleavy sued each other back and forth for a period of 20 years following the publication of The Ginger Man. This litigation continued, even after Girodias' bankruptcy, when at auction Donleavy's wife bought the rights to the Olympia Press.

Analysis of the original manuscript for The Ginger Man shows, in Donleavy's words, "a few major blunders and distinctly misplaced paragraphs and an odd misprint here and there, but the work with these exceptions had meticulously followed the manuscript". Donleavy won almost every case, though it was an expensive ordeal for both parties.

Lolita

A complicated arrangement accorded the Olympia Press roughly one-third of the royalties for Lolita after the novel's breakthrough success in America. However, Girodias lost this share when he failed to pay Nabokov on time for the French royalties.

Marcus van Heller

Girodias used to reprint the successful works of some authors under another imprint belonging to him (Ophelia Press) without the knowledge of the respective authors, in order to avoid giving them royalties for new editions. [10] This was one of the main reasons that determined John Stevenson to end the collaboration with Girodias in 1961. In the years 1955–1961, under the pen name Marcus van Heller, Stevenson was the most prolific writer for the "Traveller's Companion" series, turning his pen name into a brand of sorts. Afterwards, Girodias used the fact that the real identity behind Marcus van Haller was largely unknown, commissioning other writers to publish new novels under this pen name. [11] [12]

Criminal

Girodias consistently ran into difficulties with the authorities throughout his career. The Paris police, often pressured by British customs, seized and destroyed many copies of his books. The courts would fine him, and by 1963 he found he had to leave Paris, first for Copenhagen, then for America, where Customs agents destroyed the microfilm copies of numerous TC titles Girodias possessed. He also got into serious trouble with Simon & Schuster and author Irving Wallace over a work called The Original Seven Minutes by J.J. Jadway. [13] Copies of Girodias' Olympia Press title had to be destroyed before reaching the bookstores.

His books were published in the United States under the Olympia Press, Traveller's Companion and Ophelia Press imprints. After acquiring the Venus Library name from Kable News, who had taken it from Barney Rosset's Grove Press in settlement of debts, Girodias published also under the Venus Freeway imprint, with distribution being handled by Kable News.

His erotic and hardcore pornographic books were published also in the United Kingdom, in West Germany, Denmark and in The Netherlands under the Olympia Press imprint. The first British edition of Story of O by Pauline Réage was published by Olympia Press.

"In 1964, Girodias was prosecuted for publishing obscene literature. He was sentenced on March 3 to a year in jail, banned from publishing for twenty years, and received a $20,000 fine. It was the most serious penalty ever imposed on a publisher for offenses listed outrage aux moeurs par la voie du livre. Girodias was probably ruined because of collusion amongst French, American, and British authorities ... As a result, Girodias lost everything and was ruined." [14]

In 1974 Girodias published President Kissinger using the Venus Freeway imprint, a controversial work of science fiction by numerous authors offering a dream of socialism starring Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Girodias, it is said, was set up by the authorities in a phony drug deal and invited to leave the country.

Civil

Girodias tended not to pay his writers, if he could avoid it, not to document his work, or even live up to his contracts. He was involved in litigation concerning Lolita, Candy, The Ginger Man, Stradella and O, among other works. In the cases of Candy and O, Girodias won, setting a great deal of copyright precedents. In the cases of Lolita and The Ginger Man, he lost.

Death

On 3 July 1990, Girodias died of a heart attack. He was 71. [15]

Footnotes

  1. "Maurice Girodias" (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. Jack Kahane, Memoirs of a Booklegger, The Obolus press, 2010, p. 5.
  3. http://dongxi.net/b11tR/print%5B%5D
  4. "Pornography", Maurice Girodias, reply by Gore Vidal, New York Review of Books, May 12, 1966.
  5. p. 11, Nile Southern, The Candy Men: The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel Candy. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2004.
  6. Jansen, Sharon L., Reading Women's Worlds from Christine de Pizan to Doris Lessing: A Guide to Six Centuries of Women Writers Imagining Rooms of Their Own (N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan, 1st ed. Apr., 2011 ( ISBN   978-0-230-11066-3)), pp. 159–160.
  7. Solanas, Valerie, introduction by Ronell, Avital, SCUM Manifesto (London: Verso, 2004 ( ISBN   1-85984-553-3)).
  8. Lord, Catherine, Wonder Waif Meets Super Neuter, in October (journal) (132 (2010)), pp. 135–163 (DOI 10.1162/octo.2010.132.1.135). (Subscription required.)
  9. Morgan, Robin, ed., Sisterhood Is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings From the Women's Liberation Movement (N.Y.: Random House, 1st ed. 1970), pp. 514–519.
  10. Nile Southern (2014). The Candy Men: The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel. ISBN   9781628724585 . Retrieved 2015-07-15.
  11. John Preston (2003-07-03). "The ragged-trousered pornographers". The Daily Telegraph . Retrieved 2015-07-15.
  12. Lee Server (2009). Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers. p. 262. ISBN   9781438109121 . Retrieved 2015-07-15.
  13. "Original Seven Minutes by JJ Jadway - Olympia Press, New York 1970" . Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  14. Orend, Karl (2006). "Maximilien Vox and the Miller Affair". Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal. 3: 25–40.
  15. "Maurice Girodias, A French Publisher And an Author, 71". The New York Times. 1990-07-05. Retrieved 20 November 2009.

Related Research Articles

Vladimir Nabokov Russian-American novelist, lepidopterist, professor

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin, was a Russian-American novelist, poet, translator, and entomologist. Born in Russia, he wrote his first nine novels in Russian (1926–1938) while living in Berlin. He achieved international acclaim and prominence after moving to the United States and beginning to write in English. Nabokov became an American citizen in 1945, but he and his wife returned to Europe in 1961, settling in Montreux, Switzerland.

Alexander Trocchi Scottish novelist

Alexander Whitelaw Robertson Trocchi was a Scottish novelist.

Erotic literature Literary genre

Erotic literature comprises fictional and factual stories and accounts of eros intended to arouse similar feelings in readers. This contrasts erotica, which focuses more specifically on sexual feelings. Other common elements are satire and social criticism. Much erotic literature features erotic art, illustrating the text.

J. P. Donleavy Novelist, playwright, essayist

James Patrick Donleavy was an American-Irish novelist, short story writer and playwright. His best-known work is the novel The Ginger Man, which was initially banned for obscenity.

<i>The Ginger Man</i> 1955 novel by J. P. Donleavy

The Ginger Man is a novel, first published in Paris in 1955, by J. P. Donleavy. The story is set in Dublin, Ireland, in post-war 1947. Upon its publication, it was banned both in Ireland and the United States of America by reason of obscenity.

Berkley Books Publishing imprint of Penguin Group (USA)

Berkley Books is an imprint of the Penguin Group.

Olympia Press was a Paris-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias as a rebranded version of the Obelisk Press he inherited from his father Jack Kahane. It published a mix of erotic fiction and avant-garde literary fiction, and is best known for the first print of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.

Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1947. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, and Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. He partnered with Richard Seaver to bring French literature to the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its publisher, Morgan Entrekin, merged with Grove Press in 1991. Grove later became an imprint of the publisher Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

Jack Kahane was a writer and publisher who founded the Obelisk Press in Paris in 1929.

Obelisk Press was an English-language press based in Paris, founded by British publisher Jack Kahane in 1929.

Merlin was an avant-garde English-language literary magazine published in Paris. Seven issues were released between 1952 and 1954. It published the work of Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, Christopher Logue, Pablo Neruda, and Jean-Paul Sartre, among others. Merlin's politically loaded literature and discomforting stories contributed to the publication's reputation as one of the most serious and experimental post-war English-language magazines.

<i>Candy</i> (Southern and Hoffenberg novel)

Candy is a 1958 novel written by Maxwell Kenton, the pseudonym of Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, who wrote it in collaboration for the "dirty book" publisher Olympia Press, which published the novel as part of its "Traveller's Companion" series. According to Hoffenberg,

Terry Southern and I wrote Candy for the money. Olympia Press, $500 flat. He was in Switzerland, I was in Paris. We did it in letters. But when it got to be a big deal in the States, everybody was taking it seriously. Do you remember what kind of shit people were saying? One guy wrote a review about how Candy was a satire on Candide. So right away I went back and reread Voltaire to see if he was right. That's what happens to you. It's as if you vomit in the gutter and everybody starts saying it's the greatest new art form, so you go back to see it, and, by God, you have to agree.

John Glassco was a Canadian poet, memoirist and novelist. According to Stephen Scobie, "Glassco will be remembered for his brilliant autobiography, his elegant, classical poems, and for his translations." He is also remembered by some for his erotica.

Austryn Wainhouse was an American author, publisher and translator, primarily of French works and most notably of the Marquis de Sade. He sometimes used the pseudonym Pieralessandro Casavini.

<i>Lolita</i> 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita is a 1955 novel written by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, a French middle-aged literature professor under the pseudonym Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with an American 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze, whom he sexually molests after he becomes her stepfather. "Lolita" is his private nickname for Dolores. The novel was originally written in English and first published in Paris in 1955 by Olympia Press. Later it was translated into Russian by Nabokov himself and published in New York City in 1967 by Phaedra Publishers.

<i>My Life and Loves</i>

My Life and Loves is the autobiography of the Ireland-born, naturalized-American writer and editor Frank Harris (1856–1931). As published privately by Harris between 1922 and 1927, and by Jack Kahane's Obelisk Press in 1931, the work consisted of four volumes, illustrated with many drawings and photographs of nude women. The book gives a graphic account of Harris's sexual adventures and relates gossip about the sexual activities of celebrities of his day.

Iris Owens (1929–2008), also known by her pseudonym, Harriet Daimler, was an American novelist.

Mason Hoffenberg American writer

Mason Kass Hoffenberg was an American writer best known for having written the satiric novel Candy in collaboration with Terry Southern.

John Stevenson (writer) British writer (born 1930)

John "Steve" Stevenson was a British writer who, under the pen name Marcus van Heller, wrote erotic fiction for the Traveller's Companion series of Olympia Press publisher (1955–1961). Later he also wrote under the pen name Stephen John.

References