Olympia Press  

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"Writing d.b.'s 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. What the Square World exactly was, nobody could have explained with any precision: but the notion was very strong, indeed; and it was not the usual routine of a new generation picking a quarrel with the old, it was a much stronger and deeper protest; not a protest against war or hunger, or against the bomb, but beyond that, a protest against the mental weakness, the poverty of spirit, and the general lack of genius and generosity of a rich and sclerotic society" --Maurice Girodias, The Olympia Reader (Grove Press, New York, 1965).

"My true quarrel with the Olympia Reader and the genre it embodies is not that so much of the stuff should be boring and abjectly written. It is that these books leave a man less free, less himself, than they found him; that they leave language poorer, less endowed with a capacity for fresh discrimination and excitement. It is not a new freedom that they bring, but a new servitude. In the name of human privacy, enough!" --"Night Words: High Pornography and Human Privacy" (1965), George Steiner

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

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.

It specialized in books which could not be published (without legal action) in the English-speaking world, and correctly assumed that the French, who were unable to read the books, and were more sexually tolerant, would leave them alone. They were books to buy if your travels took you through Paris.

94 Olympia Press publications were promoted and packaged as "Traveller's Companion" books, usually with simple text-only covers, and each book in the series was numbered. The "Ophelia Press" line of erotica was far larger, using the same design, but pink covers instead of green.

Olympia Press was the first publisher willing to print William S. Burroughs's avant-garde, sexually explicit Naked Lunch, which soon became famous. Other notable works included J. P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man; Samuel Beckett's French trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable; Henry Miller's trilogy The Rosy Crucifixion, consisting of Sexus, Nexus and Plexus; A Tale of Satisfied Desire by Georges Bataille; Story of O by Pauline Réage; Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg's Candy; and a critical book on Scientology, Inside Scientology/Dianetics by Robert Kaufman. The South African poet Sinclair Beiles was an editor at the publisher. Other authors included Alexander Trocchi, Iris Owens (Harriet Daimler) and John Stevenson (Marcus Van Heller).

Girodias had troubled dealings with his authors including copyright issues; Nabokov was not satisfied with the publisher and its reputation, and another long-running dispute over the rights to The Ginger Man ended with Donleavy's then-wife Mary buying out Girodias at what was intended to be a closed auction. Having to leave France because he managed to annoy powerful people, Girodias briefly reestablished Olympia Press in New York in the 1960s, and in London in the early 1970s.

Grove Press in the U.S. would later print The Olympia Reader, a best-selling anthology containing material from some of Olympia's most popular works, including material by Burroughs, Miller, Trocchi and others. Another well-known collection was The Best of Olympia, first published by the Olympia Press in 1963 and reprinted by New English Library in 1966.

Other incarnations of the company, some with Girodias' support, emerged in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Olympia Press has been re-established and is currently operating out of Washington, London, and Frankfurt.

Works in the Traveller's Companion Series

No. Title Author
1 The Enormous Bed Henry Jones
2 Rape Marcus Van Heller (John Stevenson)
3 School for Sin Frances Lengel (pseudonym for Alexander Trocchi)
4 The Libertine Robert Desmond
5 Play This Love With Me Willie Baron (pseudonym for Baird Bryant)
6 Tender Was My Flesh Winifred Drake
7 The Ginger Man J. P. Donleavy
10 What Frank Harris Did Not Say Alexander Trocchi
11 The Loins of Amon Marcus Van Heller (John Stevenson)
12 The Chariot of Flesh Malcolm Nesbit
14 White Thighs Alexander Trocchi
17 Fanny Hill John Cleland
18 How to do it Gustav Landshot
19 Darling Harriet Daimler
20 The small rooms of Paris Ezra de Richarnaud
21 Until She Screams Mason Hoffenberg
22 The Itch Steven Hammer
23 Roman Orgy Marcus Van Heller (John Stevenson)
24 Heaven, hell and the whore Robert Desmond
25 Thongs Alexander Trocchi
26 Who Pushed Paula? Akbar Del Piombo
28 Sarabande for a bitch Mickey Dikes
29 Helen and Desire Alexander Trocchi
30 Cruel Lips Marcus Van Heller (John Stevenson)
31 Kama Houri Ataullah Mardaan
32 The Pleasure Thieves Harriet Daimler
33 Innocence Harriet Daimler
35 The Wantons Marcus Van Heller (John Stevenson)
36 Our Lady of the Flowers Jean Genet
37 The House of Borgia Marcus Van Heller (John Stevenson)
39 Sexus Henry Miller
42 Deva Dasi Ataullah Mardaan
44 The Torture Garden Octave Mirbeau
47 The world of sex Henry Miller
48 Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery John Wilmot
51 The White Book Jean Cocteau
56 Juliette Marquis de Sade
61 The Woman Thing Harriet Daimler
62 Teleny Oscar Wilde
64 Candy Terry Southern
65 Classical Hindu Erotology Ram Krishnanada
66 Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
68 Plexus Henry Miller
70 Two Novels: The Amorous Exploits of a Young Rakehell; The Debauched Hospodar Guillaume Apollinaire
71 Molloy; Malone Dies; The Unnamable Samuel Beckett
73 The Fetish Crowd Akbar Del Piombo
74 Zazie dans le Metro Raymond Queneau
75 Glædeshuse Sinclair Beiles
76 Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs
77 The Black Book Lawrence Durrell
78 The Thief's Journal Jean Genet
79 Fuzz Against Junk: The Saga of the Narcotics Brigade, and, The Hero Maker Akbar Del Piombo
80 The Young and Evil Charles Henri Ford
85 The American Express Gregory Corso
86 The Shy Photographer Jock Carroll
88 The Soft Machine William S. Burroughs
91 The Ticket That Exploded William S. Burroughs
92 Busy bodies Ed Martin
93 Murder vs. murder: The British legal system and the A.6 murder case Jean. [from old catalog] Justice
94 Sextet j. Hume Parkinson
101 Stradella James Sherwood
102 I Hear Voices Paul Ableman
104 The Gaudy Image William Talsman
105 The Story of Venus and Tannhauser Aubrey Beardsley
107 The best of 'Olympia': An anthology of tales, poems, scientific documents and tricks which appeared in the short-lived a Maurice Girodias
109 Young Adam Alexander Trocchi
112 Night Francis Pollini
114 Junky William S. Burroughs
115 Gordon Edith Templeton
205 The Sexual Life of Robinson Crusoe Humphrey Richardson
206 A bedside odyssey Gerald Williams
210 Sin for Breakfast Mason Hoffenberg
214 My Mother Taught Me Tor Kung
301 The Watcher and the Watched Thomas Peachum
429 Crazy Wild breaks loose. Jett Sage
434 Bishop's gambol Roger Agile
440 Frankenstein '69 Ed Martin
450 Acid temple ball Mary Sativa
456 A satyr's romance Barry N. Malzberg
465 Sookey Angelo D'Arcangelo
467 Thrust C.S. Vanek
470 Jyros J. Joth
505 Run Little Leather Boy Larry Townsend
2218 THE ORGANIZATION Harriet Daimler
2220 Whip Angels Selena Warfield

See also

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