He was the son of Selig and Susy Kahane, both Romanian-born immigrants. Kahane, a novelist, began the Obelisk Press after his publisher, Grant Richards, went bankrupt. Going into partnership with a printer, 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 loophole whereby books published in France in English were not subject to the censorship otherwise practised[where?] at the time, but were still subject to confiscation when importation[where?] was attempted.
The Obelisk Press published Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and other works which other publishers would not touch for fear of prosecution, among which were Lady Chatterley's Lover and some of James Joyce's works.
- 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