After watching an episode of Samantha Brown's Passport to Europe where she visited a small English-language bookstore in Paris, I made a note of it to find it on my next visit. Sounds a little nerdy, doesn't it? I did feel a little funny being in Paris and hunting down a bookstore! But, this isn't just any ol' bookstore. This one has a story . . . and if you've read any of my posts, you know how I love a 'story!'
In 1913, the original Shakespeare and Company was opened by a young American woman, Sylvia Beach. It was the place for all the English-speaking writers in Paris to hang out. Sylvia spent much of her time helping penniless writers find places to stay, arranging loans and sending their works to small publishers.
Hemingway was a regular at Shakespeare and Company. In fact, as a major in the US army, it was Hemmingway who at the liberation of Paris in 1945 drove his tank to the shop and personally liberated Sylvia Beach.
After the war, Sylvia decided not to reopen the shop. Instead, George Whitman decided to carry on the spirit of Sylvia's bookstore. George opened his doors to writers with only one caveat: sleep in the shop and work for two hours a day running the store, and read a bood a day. Several 'greats' graced the shop like Henry Miller who ate there on more than one occasion, and Anais Nin who left her will under George's bed.
George retired at age 92 in 2006. His daughter, named Sylvia, took over. Whitman died on December 14, 2011 at the age of 98. He passed at home in the apartment above the bookstore.
Don't you know George had some stories to tell? I had hoped to meet George Whitman. He was known to sit on the apartment balcony and chat with visitors entering the shop. Sadly, the windows were closed and curtains drawn when I visited. I did, however, pick up a copy of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and had it stamped with the official Shakespeare and Company stamp for a souvenir as Samantha Brown recommended. OK, maybe I am a little nerdy!
Planning a trip to Paris? Click here to find out how I can help make your experience a unique postcard in your travel scrapbook!