To be lost in a world of words can be as exciting as a visit to the Louvre.
To be lost in a world of books, is the experience of visiting the Shakespeare & Co Bookshop in Paris.
All tourists make a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral during their time in Paris. But unbeknown to the vast majority of visitors, only two hundred metres away sits one of the most enchanting spots of Paris.
There have been two Shakespeare bookshops in Paris. The first Shakespeare Bookshop was in the St Germain district run by the well know Sylvia Beach. This was a frequent meeting place for authors such as Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, to name a few. The bookshop was forced to be closed by the Nazis during the Second World War and never re-opened.
The second bookshop was by the Notre Dame Cathedral at 37 rue de la Bucherie in the 5th arrondissement, and it was called “Le Mistral”, and owned by a George Whitman. Following the death of Sylvia Beach, he re-named his shop after her, and called it the “Shakespeare Bookshop” in 1964. In the early 80’s following the birth of Whitman’s only daughter, he named her Sylvia Beach Wakeman, after the owner of the original Shakespeare Bookshop. The present owner and manager of the Shakespeare Bookshop is that daughter, Sylvia Beach Wakeman. The original owner, George Whitman passed away aged 98 in December 2011.
George Whitman was quoted as saying,
Some people call me the Don Quixote of the Latin Quarter because my head is so far up in the clouds that I can imagine that all of us are angels in paradise.
For literary students the Shakespeare Bookshop has become mecca for English literature. Within the bookshop there are even beds positioned between the bookcases for students to sleep, providing they help out with chores in the bookshop! There is also a piano on the second floor, where you can often find a young student playing, while another student lies reading on one of the beds.
For someone who loves books, a visit here is a journey into the past, into the world of Ernest Hemingway. Woody Allen featured this bookshop in his recent movie “Midnight in Paris”, and when you visit the shop you may not stumble across James Joyce, but close your eyes and you’ll hear him typing his latest chapter on the typewriter in the next room!