He was the son of Selig and Susy Kahane, both immigrants from Romania. Kahane, a novelist, began the Obelisk Press after his publisher, Grant Richards, went bankrupt. Going into partnership with a printer — Herbert Clarke, owner of Imprimerie Vendôme — Kahane published his next novel Daffodil under his own imprint, and under one of several pseudonyms he used, Cecil Barr. A publisher of "dbs" ("dirty books"), Kahane mixed serious work with smut in his list; he was able to take advantage of a legal hiatus whereby English-language books published in France were not subject there to the censorship otherwise effectively practised in the UK and elsewhere, though they remained potentially subject to confiscation when they were imported into English-speaking countries.
The Obelisk Press published Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and other works that other publishers would not touch for fear of prosecution, among which were Lady Chatterley's Lover, James Hanley's Boy and some of James Joyce's books.
- Neil Pearson Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press, 2007, Liverpool University Press
- Gary Miers Of Obelisks and Daffodils: The Publishing History of the Obelisk Press (1929–1939), 2011, Handsack Press.
- Pearson, Neil, Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press, Liverpool University Press, 2007, p. 69.
- John Fordham, James Hanley: Modernism and the Working Class. University of Wales Press, 2002, p. 146 and fn 57, p. 270. See also Neil Pearson, Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press (2008), A-37(c)