Paris never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think I have discovered all of the great places, Voila! I have a new favorite: la librairie de Shakespeare and Company !
Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookstore located right across from the Notre Dame Cathedral, 37 rue de la Bûcherie. It has little reading nooks, sleeping facilities, a library full of classics that were donated by the original owner Sylvia Beach, and new books for purchase.
Originally opened in 1919 on rue Dupuytren, it has been visited over the years by such famous writers as Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Richard Wright and was a gathering placeof the “Lost Generation” in the 1920;s for: Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Man Ray and James Joyce who had an office there. The original location was closed during the German occupation of Paris and never re-opened. The current location was opened in 1951 by George Whitman and has become a community for English-speaking expats and travelers. It is a lending library as well as a bookstore.
The walls are adorned with old photographs of its famous visitors through the years as well as hand-written notes from current patrons. One of the little nooks has an old Corona typewriter in which you can type a message, a letter, or perhaps a novel! This bookstore is usually crowded with a mix of tourists browsing books as well as patrons who frequent the “reading rooms” and library for book discussions, or possibly to play a tune on the piano! There are weekly concerts, poetry readings, literary discussions and classes on photography.
In addition, at Shakespeare and Company writers can stay for free in exchange for helping out in the bookstore. Whitman wanted to provide a place where writers had time to write and “to repay the hospitality I received in many countries when I was a vagabond”.
The library has become a great study nook for me because it is quiet, there are old, worn, comfy chairs, a great view of Notre Dame, a wonderful collection of classics in English, and there is no pressure to buy coffee or a pastry in order to occupy a seat.
As you leave the bookshop, there is a large banner with these words on it:
Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise
Copyright 2012 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)