Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press

By Neil Pearson | Go to book overview

Author Biographies

RICHARD ALDINGTON

Information about the Kahane and Babou edition of Richard Aldington’s Death of a Hero is difficult to come by – which is strange, since everybody involved seems to have had reasons to be cheerful when the book first appeared. For Kahane, who in 1930 was still in partnership with Henri Babou, Death of a Hero was one of the first books he published that is of unassailable literary merit, and his pride in securing it for his fledgling company shows in the book’s production values: two handsome volumes in two separate issues, the signed edition printed on Japon paper with a retail price of ten guineas, both issues protected by a glassine tissue wrapper and sheathed in a marbled chemise and slipcase. If this wasn’t enough in itself to please Aldington he could also reflect on the fact that, while the book is not the full text (despite its claim to be unexpurgated) it was certainly a far more complete version than those which had appeared in Britain and the United States the year before. Yet everyone involved seems to have pretended that the edition never happened. An ex-soldier himself, Kahane the publisher always looked kindly on books which took war as their theme; further, his memoir takes obvious pride in the rare occasions he managed to recruit literary heavyweights such as Miller or Joyce to the Obelisk list. But here is a war novel by an established literary name, and neither Aldington nor his book rates a mention in Memoirs of a Booklegger. For his part Aldington is equally reticent: neither he nor his biographers seem ever to have felt the need to give anything more than a cursory bibliographical mention to the Paris edition of Death of a Hero, despite the fact that no more complete version of the text became available until the Consul edition appeared in England thirty-five years later in 1965 – the first truly unexpurgated edition.

Babou and Kahane’s edition of Death of a Hero claims to be the full text, a claim lazily repeated by bibliographers, book dealers and

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