Saturday, March 03, 2007

Shakespeare and Company

When I was nineteen and on the requisite European backpacking trip, I was most excited about visiting Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Where Hemingway, Pound and Gertrude Stein hung out in the early days of the store when Sylvia Beach owned it and was the only person who would publish Joyce's Ulysses. The store closed in 1941 due to Nazi occupation of Paris, and the story goes that it was forced to shut after Beach refused to give her last copy of Finnegan's Wake to a German officer.

When it was reopened by George Whitman, it again became the focal point of leading edge writers such as Ginsberg and Burroughs. (It is informally a sister store to City Lights in San Francisco, which I visited at the end of 2005.) And the best part of the whole history of the store is that you could bunk there in exchange for working in the store a couple of hours a day. My nineteen year old self envisioned sleeping under towering shelves of books, the smell of old paper and dust, and waking up to ghosts of literary greats.

Check out some other great photographs of Shakespeare and Company - the interior shots give a fabulous sense of the store.

No comments: