NABOKV-L post 0015879, Sun, 13 Jan 2008 18:06:35 -0800

Obelisk Press, Olympia Press, and LOLITA
I call attention to James Campbell's review of Neil Peterson's "OBELISK: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press" a new volume from Liverpool UP. Campbell's review is on p. 22 of the Times Literary Supplement of Dec 7, 2007. As an extra bonus, the TLS cover displays the very faintly titillating cover illustrations of four of Kahane's books (Bright Pink Youth; Lady, take Heed; Daffodil; and Amour: French for Love) all published under the pseudonym Cecil Barr in 1930s Paris. In addition to a small flood of trashy erotica, Kahane, a Liverpudlian living in Paris, also published a number of "serious" writers now well known: Henry Miller--Tropic of Cancer; Lawrence Durrell---Black Book; Norman Douglas, Cyril Connolly,etc.

So what does VN have to do with all this? Briefly, Kahane is to Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer as Maurice Girodias is to Nabokov's Lolita. Kahane, who providentially died in 1939, was the father of Maurice Girodias who took his mother's family name in order to live on in Paris as a gentile during the Nazi occupation. After the war, he followed in his father's footsteps establishng Olympia Press and continuing his father's tradition of smutty books with a dash of more elevated literature: Beckett (Watt), Brian Donleavy (The Ginger Man), William Burroughs (Naked Lunch), and, eventually, VN's Lolita which had rejected by more timorous publishers. To round off the story, Kahane's other son, Jack, was to translate Lolita into French, as well as Zazie dans le Metro, a neo-Lolita tale by Raymond Queneau, an author admired by VN.

D. Barton Johnson

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