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A Publisher's Paradise

Expatirate Literary Culture in Paris, 1890-1960

Colette Colligan

Publication Year: 2014

From 1890 to 1960, some of Anglo-America’s most heated cultural contests over books, sex, and censorship were staged not at home, but abroad in the City of Light. Paris, with its extraordinary liberties of expression, became a special place for interrogating the margins of sexual culture and literary censorship, and a wide variety of English language “dirty books” circulated through loose expatriate publishing and distribution networks. A Publisher’s Paradise explores the political and literary dynamics that gave rise to this expatriate cultural flourishing, which included everything from Victorian pornography to the most daring and controversial modernist classics. Colette Colligan tracks the British and French politicians and diplomats who policed Paris editions of banned books and uncovers offshore networks of publishers, booksellers, authors, and readers. She looks closely at the stories the “dirty books” told about this publishing haven and the smut peddlers and literary giants it brought together in transnational cultural formations. The book profiles an eclectic group of expatriates living and publishing in Paris, from relatively obscure figures such as Charles Carrington, whose list included both The Picture of Dorian Gray and the pornographic novel Randiana, to bookshop owner Sylvia Beach, famous for publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922. A Publisher’s Paradise is a compelling exploration of the little-known history of foreign pornography in Paris and the central role it played in turning the city into a modernist outpost for literary and sexual vanguardism, a reputation that still lingers today in our cultural myths of midnight in Paris.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I wish to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and my home institution, Simon Fraser University, for their generous support. I am also grateful to the many librarians and archivists in Britain, France, and the United States for their assistance, particularly Shawn C. Wilson at the...

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pp. 1-14

From 1890 to 1960 some of Anglo-America’s most heated cultural contests over books, sex, and censorship were staged not at home, but abroad in the City of Light. Paris became a haven for interrogating and reimagining the margins of sexual culture and literary expression, and a wide variety of English “dirty books” circulated...

Part I: Politics

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1. British Cultural Policy and the Rise of Paris Editions, 1890–1914

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pp. 17-43

Paris was the center of European artistic life in the nineteenth century. In the British cultural imagination, the city was also the gateway for splendor and vice. The controversial French novels of Guy de Maupassant, Emile Zola, and Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly fed such ideas with their loose tales of sex, prostitution, and adultery. Many...

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2. British Censorship, French Liberalism, and Paris Editions, 1918–1960

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pp. 44-64

In 1915, a British postal official noted that the traffic in pornography coming from France was virtually “killed by the war.”1 But the business in Paris editions that developed with the internationalization of pornography quickly resumed after the fighting ended, newly linking pornography with experimental modernist writing, and...

Part II: Publishing

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3. Charles Carrington, 1867–1921

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pp. 67-90

Shifting from the cultural politics that led to the rise and fall of Paris editions to the principal personalities behind their production and distribution, we discover front and center the man who went by the name Charles Carrington (1867–1921). He was the Paris-based publisher-bookseller who appeared repeatedly on...

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4. Charles Carrington’s Books from Abroad, Circa 1895–1921

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pp. 91-140

Charles Carrington’s extraordinary life as an expatriate, unearthed in the last chapter, informed his great entrepreneurial venture as a Paris-based publisher-bookseller. Sometime around 1895, when he immigrated to Paris, he set up his unique publishing business that specialized in sex books from abroad, which he sometimes advertised...

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5. Paris Editions from Charles Hirsch to Maurice Girodias, Circa 1900–1960

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pp. 141-184

The English sex book in Paris was bigger than its expatriate creator, Charles Carrington. His rivals and contemporaries, his immediate successors, and other small independent publishers published Paris editions from the turn of the century through to the 1960s. Although some of these publishers have been studied, this publishing...

Part III: Pornography

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6. Suburban Souls and the Literary Family, Paris Circa 1900

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pp. 187-211

The changing cultural politics and publishing networks that gave shape to the pornographer’s paradise in Paris are encoded in fascinating ways in certain Paris editions. Works that presented themselves as confessions, memoirs, or diaries reflected on the expatriated book at different moments in its history. Jerome McGann’s...

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7. Teleny, the 1890s, and Charles Hirsch’s “Notice Bibliographique,” 1934

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pp. 212-244

Teleny or the Reverse of the Medal, A Physiological Romance of To-Day (1893) is another pornographic novel that is an important, albeit contested, record of the history of Paris editions.1 It is the tragic and libidinous love story of two men, Camille Des Grieux and René Teleny, set in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and...

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8. Lolita, Her Russian American Author, and His Paris Publisher, 1939–1967

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pp. 245-278

Suburban Souls and Teleny are little known pornographic novels that in different ways can be read against the changing history of Paris editions and Anglo-French cultural politics. The last novel I want to discuss is Lolita, a late example of a Paris edition by the Russian-American writer Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov would probably have...


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pp. 279-342


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pp. 343-362

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613762790
E-ISBN-10: 1613762798
Print-ISBN-13: 9781625340375
Print-ISBN-10: 1625340370

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 26 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 879306245
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Publisher's Paradise

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Publishers and publishing -- France -- Paris -- History -- 20th century.
  • Erotic literature -- Publishing -- France -- Paris -- History -- 20th century.
  • Booksellers and bookselling -- France -- Paris -- History -- 20th century.
  • Carrington, Charles, 1867-1921.
  • Publishers and publishing -- France -- Paris -- Biography.
  • Expatriate authors -- France -- Paris -- History -- 20th century.
  • Authors, English -- France -- Paris -- History -- 20th century.
  • Censorship -- Great Britain -- History.
  • Paris (France) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Paris (France) -- Imprints.
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