Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press by Neil Pearson - review by John de St Jorre

John de St Jorre

Agent Provocateur

Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press

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Liverpool University Press 494pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

In 1930, Jack Kahane, a tall gangling Englishman who favoured Savile Row suits, a monocle and cane, launched an unlikely publishing venture in Paris. The early signs were not propitious. He had no publishing experience; he suffered from poor health; he was hobbled by a disadvantageous deal with an unreliable printer-partner; and he found himself operating in a bleak economic environment following the stock market meltdown a year earlier.

Yet over the next decade, Kahane’s Obelisk Press not only kept afloat, but published works by Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and three other novels), Anaïs Nin (House of Incest and Winter of Artifice), Lawrence Durrell (The Black Book), James Joyce (a fragment of Haveth Childers Everywhere and Pomes Penyeach), Cyril Connolly (The Rock Pool), Radclyffe Hall (The Well of Loneliness), and D H Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover).

Jack Kahane was born in Manchester but lived in France after fighting in the First World War. In 1917, he married Marcelle Girodias, a Frenchwoman, and the couple had four children. During the 1920s, Kahane made a reasonable living through business deals and writing titillating pulp fiction for British publishers.

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