Last September, I spent two weeks driving around France. The last two days of the trip were spent in Paris, where I stumbled across the wonderfully quaint Shakespeare and Company bookshop.
It’s a curious place, like all bookshops should be. It was the first place to publish the entirety of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Which at the time was deemed controversial.
The shop was open by Sylvia Beach on 19 November 1919. It moved premises before it was closed in 1941. George Whitman re-opened the store in 1951, at its current location, under the name Le Mistral. The shop’s name was changed back in 1964, six years after Beach had given the name to Whitman.
The shops have been linked with many writers, some even stayed there over the years. Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Ginsberg, Kerouac and William S. Burroughs have all spent time at the shop. The latter is said to have researched parts of Naked Lunch there.
It’s an understatement to say that the shop has plenty of history. And the building that now houses the vast collection of titles is ornate and doll-like. I wasn’t even looking for it when I found it, which made the experience much more special.
It is well-worth a visit, even if books aren’t your thing.