Only a few blocks from our apartment is an enchanting place called the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop. It’s a wonderful spot to spend a rainy cold afternoon browsing three floors of books, most in English, stacked floor to high ceiling. One is literally encased by books! There I am in my nice soft chair tucked under a stairwell engrossed in an art book, “Paris Line By Line” by Robinson. All is well until I realize too much time has passed. Quickly I stand up forgetting that I am sitting so far back under the stairs. Yep, knock yourself out at Shakespeare and Company! “Les Etoiles” is French for ” the stars” I see after hitting the top of my hard head on the stair tread.
Although Shakespeare and Company is a long standing venture, it’s actually the reincarnation of an even more famous bookstore by the same name. In the 1920s a free thinking American named Sylvia Beach started Shakespeare and Company on Rue de l’Odéon, also in the Latin Quarter, as a haven for American writers who flocked to Paris after World War I. Earnest Hemingway, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound were all known to have frequented Sylvia’s original store.
Below is a link (sorry we could not embed it) to Shakespeare and Company’s short video that details some of the fascinating history of the store. George Whitman, who started this bookstore died in 2011 but his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman carries on the tradition of encouraging young writers.