„A socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore“ – Happy Birthday Shakespeare & Company, Paris
November 17th, 1919: Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company . First established as a lending library as well as a bookstore, it then moved it to a larger location at 12 rue de l’Odéon, where it remained until 1940.
During this period, the store was the center of Anglo-American literary culture and modernism in Paris. Writers and artists of the „Lost Generation,“ such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Man Ray spent a great deal of time there, and it was nicknamed „Stratford-on-Odéon“ by James Joyce, who used it as his office.
Its books were considered high quality and reflected Beach’s own taste. The store and its literary denizens are mentioned in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Patrons could buy or borrow books like D. H. Lawrence’s controversial Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which had been banned in Britain and the United States.
Beach published Joyce’s book Ulysses in 1922. It, too, was banned in the United States and Britain. Later editions were also published under the Shakespeare and Company imprint.
The original Shakespeare and Company closed on 14 June 1940, during the German occupation of France in World War II. It has been suggested that it may have been ordered shut because Beach denied a German officer the last copy of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. When the war ended, Hemingway „personally liberated“ the store, but it never re-opened
In 1951, another English-language bookstore was opened on Paris’s Left Bank by American ex-serviceman George Whitman, under the name of Le Mistral.
Its premises, the site of a 16th-century monastery are at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, near Place Saint-Michel, just steps from the Seine, Notre Dame and the Île de la Cité.
Much like Shakespeare and Company, the store became the focal point of literary culture in bohemian Paris, and was frequented by many Beat Generation writers including Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.
Whitman modeled his shop after Sylvia Beach’s and, in 1958 while dining with George, she publicly announced that she was handing the name to him for his bookshop.
In 1964, after Sylvia Beach’s death, Whitman renamed his store „Shakespeare and Company“ in tribute to the original, describing the name as „a novel in three words“. He called the venture „a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore“. Customers have included the likes of Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin. The bookstore has sleeping facilities and Whitman claimed that as many as 40,000 people have slept there over the years.
The bookstore was a sanctuary for some twenty of its customers during the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Since George Whitman´s death in 2011, his daughter – Sylvia Whitman – is the proprietor of Shakespeare and company. ( Read more in Vanity Fair http://bit.ly/1HWOuJz )
„Shakespeare’s greatest asset in the age of Amazon: Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia“
George Whitman and daughter Sylvia in front of Shakespeare and Company, circa 1985. Inset, Sylvia, now 33, outside the 63-year-old shop, 2014., Large photograph by Deborah Hayden.
Happy Birthday to one of the most inspiring places in Paris and the literary world… phm, Nov 17th, 2015.
- Joyce with Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier at Shakespeare and Company ©Estate Gisele Freund/IMEC Images
- Memorial plaque at 12, Rue de l’Odeon Paris, France (where Sylvia Beach’s bookstore „Shakespeare & Company“ was located) © AndreasPraefcke
- insight view © Shakespeare and Company
- shakespeare’s company © Patricia Holland Moritz / phm.2013
- LITERARY ESTATE: George Whitman and daughter Sylvia in front of Shakespeare and Company, circa 1985. Inset, Sylvia, now 33, outside the 63-year-old shop, 2014., Large photograph by Deborah Hayden / © vanity fair
Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, Frankreich
+33 1 43 25 40 93