George Whitman, owner of one of my favourite bookstores and places in Paris, Shakespeare and Company passed away at the age of 98 on Wednesday in his apartment above the store. He opened the bookstore in 1951 (at the time it was called Le Mistral and was renamed to Shakespeare and Company in 1964).
“I came to Paris in 1946 and stayed on,” he told the Literary Review in 2003. “I started a little lending library for American GIs who had stayed on in Paris. I finally decided I’d open a bookstore here to make room for all my books.” via washingtonpost.com
Shakespeare and Company is a haven for book lovers. It's warm, cosy and smells of old books. With a sign on the wall that says “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.” - you can't but help fall in love with the place.
Besides the books, Shakespeare and Company hosts poetry readings and also offers accomodation to young writers in beds tucked amongst the bookshelves. All they need to do is "read one book a day and write a short autobiography before leaving Paris". Just marvellous.
I stumbled upon Shakespeare and Company during one of my walks in Paris in November 2010. I wasn't intending to visit it, but there it was, greeting me with open arms on a cold night. I ended up spending my evening browsing through books and even sat through a poetry reading session. It's one of my favourite memories from Paris. Here are some photos I took from that evening which I've only shared with friends. I think it's quite befitting to share it on my blog today to honour George Whitman.
I think 'free thinking bookstores' like Shakespeare and Company are a dying breed and it makes me sad to think that there aren't many George Whitmans in today's world.
RIP George Whitman, 1913-2011.