Olympia Press

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Olympia Press
legal form
founding 1953
Seat Paris
Branch publishing company
Website www.olympia-press.de

Édouard Manet : Olympia , 1863. One of Girodias' favorite pictures. Name donor of the publisher

Olympia Press is the name of an English-language publisher of erotic fiction that was founded by Maurice Girodias in 1953 in Paris . He continued his father Jack Kahane's publishing house Obelisk Press . The publisher was the first to publish Samuel Beckett's novels, William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch , Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita , Jean Genet was translated, and Raymond Queneau's Zazie on the Metro , but Olympia Press focused on erotic literature .

The titles appeared under numerous imprints , namely:

  • Olympia Press (1953-1959),
  • Collection Merlin (1953-1955),
  • Teasers (1953-1954),
  • The Atlantic Library (1954),
  • Traveller's Companion (1955-1965),
  • The Ophelia Press (1958-1960),
  • La Grande Séverine (1960),
  • Ophir Books (1961),
  • Far-Out Books (1961),
  • Olympia Magazine (1962–1963),
  • Othello Books (1962),
  • Odyssey Library (1963).

The New York Olympia Press existed from 1967 to 1974. Venus Freeway (a total of 73 titles) was the last imprint. A Springtime for Hitler and President Kissinger , confiscated before it appeared, were the last books.

Publishing program

Maurice Girodias was a son of the writer and publisher Jack Kahane , who in the 1930s published Henry Miller , Anaïs Nin or Lawrence Durrell in his Obelisk Press , but also less ambitious erotica (and himself). Father and son gave the American artist colony living in Paris the opportunity to publish. As customers, they primarily aimed at American and English tourists who wanted to experience something in the “capital of love”. So Maurice Girodias had his fellow writers write stories that were as drastic and erotic as possible. The thin green travel companions of the Traveller's Compagnion Series could easily be hidden in the luggage.

L'affaire Lolita: Temporary sales ban in France

Olympia Press received a temporary ban from the French Interior Ministry in the late 1950s to sell the 24 titles that were part of the publishing program at the time.

One of the reasons for the ban is that a controversy in British newspapers made it more widely known how often British publication bans were undermined by private book imports: Among the random buyers of the Russian-American author's novel Lolita , which appeared in two volumes on September 15, 1955 Vladimir Nabokov counted Graham Greene . As this Christmas of the same year by the British Sunday Times was asked that his three books of the year were 1955, he called without any further comments following titles: the itinerary Boswell on the Grand Tour of James Boswell , who came from the 18th century , the non-fiction book of France's clocks go differently by the Swiss historian Herbert Lüthy and Nabokovs Lolita . This last suggestion gave rise to violent words on January 29, 1956, to the editor-in-chief of the British tabloid, the Sunday Express , John Gordon:

“Hands down the dirtiest book I've ever read. Pure unrestrained pornography. Its main character is a perverted guy who has a passion for 'nymphets', as he calls them. That, he explains, are girls between 11 and 15. The whole book is devoted to an exhaustive, unrestrained, and utterly disgusting description of his machinations and successes. It is printed in France. Anyone who relocated or sold it in this country would surely end up in the mess. And the Sunday Times would definitely think that's okay. "

Neither the Sunday Times nor Graham Greene responded directly to these attacks. Instead, Greene published a note in the political magazine The Spectator that he had founded a "John Gordon Society" whose competent censors should protect the British homeland from the insidious threats of pornography in the future. This satirical act led to letters to the editor filling the columns of the Spectator for months and, on February 26, 1956, The New York Times Book Review reported for the first time about a literary scandal smoldering in Great Britain, but without naming the novel's title or author.

After there had been a raid on the premises of Olympia Press a few months earlier, on December 10, 1956 the French Ministry of the Interior banned the sale of all 24 titles that appeared in the publishing house. The publisher was also prohibited from exporting these titles. A little later, Maurice Girodias was able to prove that the French Interior Ministry had only acted at the instigation of the British Home Office. The French press gladly took up this and sided with the publisher in their publications. She saw the ban as an attack on traditional French artistic freedom, quickly recognized that Nabokov's novel Lolita was the trigger, and from January 1957 referred to the matter as L'affaire Lolita .

The sales ban on Lolita was legally questionable as, for example, neither a British nor a US court had banned the sale of this novel. The respected French publisher Éditions Gallimard was also preparing a French edition of the novel at the same time. In addition, on February 8, 1957, Girodias received a clear decision from the US Treasury that Lolita had been checked but released. In sum, this meant that the novel was subject to an export ban in France, while it could be imported into the USA without any problems. Similar absurd situations applied to other titles published by the publisher. The French Home Office's ban ensured that the sale of Frank Harris and Henry Miller's stories in English was banned while they were still available in French. The situation in JP Donleavy's novel Ginger Man was even more absurd . The novel, whose title had been banned by the French Home Office at the request of the UK home office, was freely available in the UK. The ban on selling all English-language titles published by Olympia Press was finally lifted in July 1959. The French edition of the novel Lolita , published by Éditions Gallimard, had been available in French bookstores since April 1959.

Important first editions

Lesser known authors or titles were:

When the tough censorship regulations in the USA were relaxed, Maurice Girodias left Paris in 1964 and went to New York . He was a publisher there from 1967 to 1974. His memoir was published in 1980.

A West German Olympia Press was founded by Jörg Schröder in 1969. This purely pornographic publisher earned the money to finance the literarily and politically demanding March Verlag at the time of the emerging sex wave . The German Olympia Press published translations, but also many original editions.


  • Maurice Girodias: Lolita, Nabokov and I . Article in Evergreen Review , September 1965
  • John de St Jorre: Venus Bound: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press and Its Writers , Random House , New York, 1994.

Web links


  1. Dieter E. Zimmer: Cyclone Lolita. Information on an epoch-making novel . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2008, p. 18.
  2. Quoted from Dieter E. Zimmer: Cyclone Lolita. Information on an epoch-making novel . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2008, p. 19.
  3. Dieter E. Zimmer: Cyclone Lolita. Information on an epoch-making novel . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2008, p. 20.
  4. Dieter E. Zimmer: Cyclone Lolita. Information on an epoch-making novel . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2008, p. 21 and p. 22.
  5. ^ Graham Vickers: Chasing Lolita: How Popular Culture Corrupted Nabokov's Little Girl All Over Again. Chicago Review Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-556-52682-4 , p. 50.
  6. Dieter E. Zimmer: Cyclone Lolita. Information on an epoch-making novel . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2008, p. 22 and p. 23.
  7. Dieter E. Zimmer: Cyclone Lolita. Information on an epoch-making novel . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2008, p. 24.