After a few reluctant rejections from Paris publishers, Histoire d'O was published in June 1954 by Jean-Jacques Pauvert who had previously published the entire works of the Marquis de Sade, sparking off a series of court cases that lasted eight years.
Histoire d'O was published, at the same time, in English by Maurice Girodias, a colleague of Pauvert's and the founder of The Olympia Press. Olympia was known for publishing risqué books in English in Paris for the consumption of foreign tourists, who because of censorship could not obtain such materials at home. French censorship laws had a loophole allowing English works to be published without domestic confiscation. Despite this Girodias consistently ran into difficulties with the authorities throughout his career. The Paris police, often pressured by British customs, seized and destroyed many copies of his books. Story of O was rushed through as a poor translation in less than three weeks as the publishers wanted to release both books together.
In February 1955, Histoire d'O won the literary prize Prix des Deux Magots, and the novel's standing was assured. The book quickly gained notoriety and public outrage led to a police investigation as the book became more well known.
Although Girodias had never had a contract for printing rights, it was understood that he would only print 2000 copies on one print-run. He changed the title of his version to The Wisdom of the Lash and had it retranslated before he printed it again. He also left out the preface by Paulhan. He put that down to a mistake by the printer, but never explained why he changed the title, or why he had run the book again.
Although The Story of O was never officially banned in Britain, censorship laws forbade publication here of the two English versions.
In 1963, Pauvert sold the American rights to Grove Press. Copies of the book were sent to the American publisher, but they were seized by Customs. On appeal they were released by the same official who had allowed Lolita five years previously.
Grove Press insisted on a new translation, by Sabine D'Estree, and it was published in 1965 in America, and five years later in Britain. Sabine was another pseudonym; one that was also kept secret for a long time. 'She' was Richard Seaver, a translator who had lived in France for many years.
Note: 1954 saw;
- Pierre Mendès-France become prime minister of France
- at the close of the Franco-Vietnamese War the Battle of Mang Yang Pass ends in defeat for French forces and the Geneva Conference partitiones Vietnam into North Vietnam and South Vietnam
- Louison Bobet wins Tour de France
- the deaths of Colette, writer (b.1873), Henri Matisse, artist (b.1869) and Auguste Lumière, filmmaker (b.1862)
- On the Water Front, White Christmas, Godzilla, and Rear Window are all top grossing cinema releases
- Marilyn Monroe marries baseball player Joe DiMaggio
- U.S. officials announce that a hydrogen bomb test has been conducted on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean
- The Boeing 707 is released after about two years of development
- Britain agrees to end its military occupation of the Suez Canal
- Winston Churchill becomes the first, and as of 2010 the only, serving British Prime Minister to reach his 80th birthday while still in office
- In the UK J. R. R. Tolkien publishes The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings
- and the publication of Kingsley Amis's novel Lucky Jim, William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, and Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Live and Let Die.
- in the UK fourteen years of rationing following World War II comes to an end
- also in the UK Donald McGill, the artist of saucy seaside postcards, is found guilty of breaching the Obscene Publications Act 1857
Essential Chronology by Autel & R***
1884 Jean Paulhan is born on 2nd December in Nîmes.
1907 Anne Desclos (future Dominique Aury) is born on 23rd September in Rochefort-sur-Mer.
1941 In October (?) Dominique Aury and Paulhan meets for the first time.
1943 Dominique Aury publishes Anthologie de la poésie religieuse française with Gallimard.
1946 In April Paulhan founds with Gallimard Les Cahiers de la Pléiade (that replaces La NRF). Aury works as the editorial secretary. It is the beginning of their collaboration (which will soon develop into a intimate relationship) for life.
1951 In the course of this year Aury gives the manuscript of Story of O to Paulhan portion by portion.
- In October Paulhan mentions the manuscript of Story of O in his letter to Gaston Gallimard.
1953 La NRF starts to be issued after a twelve year interruption. Paulhan assumes its co-directorship (with Marcel Arland). Dominique Aury becomes its general secretary.
1954 Paulhan publishes “Le bonheur dans l’esclavage” in the January-February issue of Le Disque Vert (Bruxelles).
- In June Histoire d’O is published under the pseudonym of Pauline Réage with Paulhan's preface ("Le bonheur..." ) by Jean-Jaques Pauvert.
1955 Story of O receives a Deux-Magots prize on 21st Januray.
- On 4th March Story of O becomes the subject of legal charges for obscenity (the procedure is annulled in October 1959 but the publicity and the sale to the minors are to be banned until 1967)
1963 Paulhan is elected member of the Académie Française on 27th April.
1967 The publicity ban is lifted.
1968 Paulhan is seriously ill. Aury stays at his beside, writing Une fille amoureuse.
- Paulhan dies on 9th October.
1969 Publication of Pauline Réage’s Retour à Roissy précédé de : Une fille amoureuse by Jean-Jacques Pauvert.
1975 Publication of O m’a dit, Réage’s interview with Régine Deforges, by Jean-Jacques Pauvert.
- A homonyme film adaptation by Just Jaekin is released in September.
1994 The New Yorker publishes in its 1st August issue, an interview of Aury in which she acknowledges for the first time publicly her authorship of Story of O.
1998 Aury dies in the night of 26th to 27th April.
1999 Publication of Vocation Clandestine, Aury’s interview with Nicole Grenier, by Gallimard. In this interview realized in 1989 and destined to posthumous publication, Aury talks in details about her Story of O. ( www.oraclutie.org )
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