SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY: Memory lane…

When recently WordPress reminded me that this, my second blog, had reached its ninth anniversary, I decided not to re-post the original post but to share once again a place that is special to me.


Upon arriving in Paris, many are drawn to such destinations as The Eiffel Tower, Cathedral Notre Dame, La Louvre or one of many other Parisian landmarks. However, when I first arrived in Paris my first stop was to a landmark English Book Store in the Latin Quarter.

Located across the Seine from Cathedral Notre Dame, this haven for readers and writers is a living legend. The focus of this bookstore is English-language literature. It has served as not only inspiration but also home to writers for decades. In its current incarnation, it honors the past and the work of the original owner, Sylvia Beach. Miss Beach was responsible for publishing authors who had previously been unsuccessful in their attempts to be in print such as James Joyce. The advent of WWII closed the doors of the original Shakespeare & Company begun by Miss Beach. Miss Beach managed to keep the bookstore open through 1941 and the fall of Paris. However, the war had taken its toll.

After the war, American, George Whitman was not eager to return immediately. Instead, he enrolled in French classes at the Sorbonne. He amassed a large collection of books and his apartment became a lending library. After discussions with a friend, he found an apartment in the location where the bookstore still stands and turned that into a bookstore library. He used the name Shakespeare and Company in honor of Miss Beach and all that she had achieved.

There is a sign that you will see when you enter the shop that sums up George’s philosophy in life. “Be not inhospitable to strangers least they be angels in disguise.” George Whitman took in many hungry writers and shared his home and his life. There were beds among the books and often pancakes with George himself. His story is truly amazing and bears future reading.  The list of authors who have received inspiration and support at Shakespeare and Company is like reading a list of who’s who in the literary world for the past century. George and his daughter continue to support writers. Visiting authors, late night poetry readings are just some of the delights that are waiting for you.

In his novel, Time Was Soft There, Canadian journalist Jeremy Mercer chronicles his time living and working in the bookstore. It is food for any reader or writer’s soul. Unless the copy you find, of Jeremy’s book, is as old as mine, the re-printed edition is under a different title, Books, Baugettes, and Bedbugs. When you are planning that trip to Paris, put it on your list of musts.

This writer was thrilled when the shop took a few of my first poetry chapbooks on consignment and still have the receipt as a treasured souvenir of my first trip to France. I look forward to returning to Paris and to Shakespeare & Company. Fortunately, this time I won’t have to worry about buying more books than will fit in my suitcase…

Sadly, shortly after the original posting of this article, George Whitman traded the flesh and literally became one of those angels. His daughter continues her father’s work and I encourage everyone to check out the website put together by George’s daughter, Sophie, and the group who has banded to support the ideals that George and Sylvia Beach shared. https://friendsofshakespeareandcompany.com/

Company.

Bisous,

Léa

In Memoriam: George Whitman

“Be Not Inhospitable To Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise” – George Whitman

Today, this blog is dedicated to the man who made this Mecca for writer’s and reader’s  all that it could be. George Whitman, an Angel in Disguise, died on Wednesday at the age of 98 years young.

No doubt, his spirit will linger on in every corner of the shop, between book and page now safely in the hands of his daughter and those entrusted with Shakespeare & Company’s care. The highlight of my first trip to Paris was when they accepted my first poetry chapbook and added it to Poet’s Corner. The receipt is safely tucked in the journal I carried around France.

Recently, on my other blog: foundinfrance.wordpress.com, I focused on Shakespeare & Company. It is a place that holds fond memories and I shall return.

If you have not experienced a visit to Shakespeare & Company, it is an unforgettable experience. When you cross George’s threshold, you enter another world. This is a world of books, writers, readers and a remarkable chapter in Literary History. George and Shakespeare & Company are each legendary in their own right.

Sleep well. Your rest is well earned and know you have made a difference in countless lives. To George’s daughter Sylvia and the many others who are dedicated to continuing George’s legacy, I offer my sincere condolences.

Bisous,

Léa