In the 5th arrondissement

A literary festival in Paris celebrates the history of Shakespeare and Company, a legendary Parisian bookstore. An article about the shop and the festival appeared in this week’s Sunday Times.* Some highlights:

For Sylvia Whitman, 22, from London, the festival, featuring plays, poetry readings and guided tours of the Parisian watering holes of famous Anglophone writers, is a way of celebrating the history of Shakespeare and Company, a bookshop run by her eccentric 90-year-old father George.

For decades the shop on the banks of the Seine has been a haven for penniless poets and authors, the would-be Hemingways and Joyces drawn to Paris by its reputation as a hotbed of inspiration. George Whitman [the owner] allows them to sleep among the books in exchange for help in the shop….

In [the early] days the company was run by Sylvia Beach, an American, and became the spiritual home of Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. The shop never reopened after the war. Then along came George Whitman.

In 1951 he opened his shop nearby, later taking over the Shakespeare and Company name. Since then he has lodged and befriended generations of writers, including Henry Miller, Bertolt Brecht, Arthur Miller, Graham Greene and Lawrence Durrell. Burroughs would consult the medical books in Whitman’s personal library while working on his most famous work, Naked Lunch.

(Another link courtesy of Emma Garman.)

Here’s a photo of the bookstore, and here’s a virtual tour. Call ahead for details about the festival.

* Unfortunately, a paid subscription is required to access the newspaper online.


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