Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris

Watching the Hong Kong TVB series Triumph in the Skies 2 (on Astro On Demand) last night, I was pleasantly surprised that Episode 21 takes the cast/story to this famous bookstore in Paris, Shakespeare and Company, located in a 17th-century building by the Seine at 37 Rue de la Bucherie, 75005 Paris, France.

Image source: Wikipedia

From Wikipedia..
Shakespeare and Company is the name of two independent bookstores on Paris's Left Bank. The first was opened by Sylvia Beach on 17 November 1919 at 8 rue Dupuytren, before moving to larger premises at 12 rue de l'Odéon in the 6th arrondissement in 1922. During the 1920s, it was a gathering place for writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. It closed in 1940 during the German occupation of Paris and never re-opened.

The second is situated at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, in the 5th arrondissement - where it currently stands. Opened in 1951 by George Whitman, it was originally named "Le Mistral" but renamed to "Shakespeare and Company" in 1964 in tribute to Sylvia Beach's bookstore. Today, it serves both as a regular bookstore and as a reading library, specializing in English-language literature. The shop was featured in the Richard Linklater film Before Sunset and in the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris
and now might I add in Triumph in the Skies 2 or TITS2 in short.

This is the interior of the bookshop as you can also see it in TITS2. It also shows Summer (Myolie Woo) and Isaac (Ron Ng) putting up a night there - sorry, no hanky-panky, just heart-to-heart talk and some sweet moments. It also has them putting back books on the shelves, probably working for the store for accommodation for the night.

Image source: Wikipedia

Overlooking the Seine and facing the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, the store, looking somewhat beat-up behind a Dickensian facade and spread over three floors, has been an offbeat mix of open house and literary commune. For decades Mr. Whitman provided food and makeshift beds to young aspiring novelists or writing nomads, often letting them spend a night, a week, or even months living among the crowded shelves and alcoves.

He welcomed visitors with large-print messages on the walls. “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise,” was one, which he attributed to Yeats, although it was actually a variation on a biblical passage. Next to a wishing well at the center of the store, a sign said: “Give what you can, take what you need. George.” By his own estimate, he lodged some 40,000 people.

Mr. Whitman was famously frugal and expected the bibliophiles residing in his store to work a few hours every day sorting and selling books. Yet he also invited uncounted numbers of people for weekly tea parties to his own apartment, or for late-night readings enriched with dumplings or pots of Irish stew. - NY Times

Shakespeare and Company is now owned and run by Sylvia Beach Whitman, only child of George Whitman who used to live in the third-floor apartment above the store until his death at age 98 on December 14, 2011. She was named after Sylvia Beach, founder of the original Shakespeare and Company Bookstore.

Image source: NY Times

Ms Whitman continues to run the shop in the same manner as her father and allowing young writers to live and work in the bookstore.

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore - now, this is the kind of place that will make it to my itinerary should I visit Paris.

Related articles
- George Whitman, Paris Bookseller and Cultural Beacon, Is Dead at 98 - NY Times
- Literary Luminaries Hold Forth at Storied Paris Bookshop - NY Times

1 comment:

  1. Book store? Where whete where???

    Mmm....my little piece of heaven. But would be nice if the book store is well lit