Where? Paris, France
Recommended by Ferdinand Harmsen
Visited: August 2008
(Read more on Shakespeare & Co in our Report from Paris)
Ferdinand said: "Established in 1951 by George Whitman this messy book store is a real must-see. In the very heart of France, near the Notre Dame, just across the Seine, this book store is the epic centre of Anglo-Saxon life in Paris. Packed on three floors you will find English books, most of them second hand, literally everywhere. Even the stove is supported by piles of old National Geographics. And although books are everywhere they even found some space to put in the shop some beds for writers who have nowhere else to sleep."
Located in the 5th arrondissement on the left bank of the river, opposite Notre-Dame in Paris, the Shakespeare & Co bookstore is regarded as one of the most popular European bookstores specializing in books in English, and we couldn't have missed it during our summer visit of Paris. The most remarkable thing about this bookstore is that even today, it still manages to proudly hold on to its ideals and mission. The whole place breathes the atmosphere of more than half a century of an incredible literary and cultural oasis of English language in the heart of Paris. The bookstore spreads on three levels, cramped with books on almost any subject imaginable. You can also spot many artifacts from its amazing history, as well as a functional piano which is begging to be played. The top floor still serves as a writers room and an open library to all the visitors.
The original Shakespeare & Company bookstore (located at 12 Rue de l'Odéon) was owned and run by Sylvia Beach and it operated from 1919 to 1941. Great figures of Anglo-American literary scene like James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound or Gertrude Stein belonged to its regular visitors and the place soon became Paris's best known Anglo-American cultural and literary hangout. George Whitman, the founder of the bookstore at 37 rue de la Bucherie opened his store in 1951 and later on, in 1962, decided to name it after Sylvia Beach's legendary bookstore and continue its legacy. That's how the second Shakespeare & Co was born.
The charismatic owner, with a reputation of the last true member of the beat generation, describes his own bookstore as "a den of anarchists disguised as a bookstore". The list of its renowned visitors is no less impressive - Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Henry Miller, Jacques Prévert, and many others. Through the years, Shakespeare & Co has been a temporary shelter to tens of thousands of travelers, poets and aspiring writers, who were offered a free bed, as the motto of this bookstore reads: "Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise".
Additional info: For another whole-hearted description of a visit of this bookstore accompanied by pictures (by our friend Kim) click HERE.
Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue de la Bucherie
+00 33 (0) 1 43 25 40 93
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