Girodias was the son of French publisher Jack Kahane, whose Obelisk Press had published works by such writers as Henry Miller and James Joyce that had been too experimental or sexually explicit for other commercial publishing houses. Kahane died in 1939, but his son revived the company after World War II. As head of Obelisk Press, Girodias was prosecuted twice, once for libel (in a politically sensitive case) and once for obscenity after he published a French edition of Henry Miller’s novel Tropic of Capricorn (1939). Girodias won both cases.
In 1953 Girodias established Olympia Press, a firm that was to have a significant impact on contemporary literature. Its headquarters were in Paris, but it published works in English that, in theory at least, were not to be introduced into the United States or the United Kingdom. Among Olympia’s titles were Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s comic novel Candy (1958), as well as such highly regarded works as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955) and William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (1959). Olympia Press also published a number of salaciously titled works of little literary merit.
Beginning in 1956, Girodias was repeatedly prosecuted for obscenity by the French government, and a number of his firm’s books were banned. He moved Olympia Press to New York in 1967 but met with only marginal success in the United States. Many of the works he had first pioneered had since been picked up by other publishers and were openly available throughout the English-speaking world.