Shakespeare and Company is an independent bookstore located in the 5th arrondissement, in Paris's Left Bank. Shakespeare and Company serves as both a bookstore and a lending library, specializing in English-language literature. The upstairs also serves as a makeshift dormitory for travelers, known as "tumbleweeds," who earn their keep by working in the shop for a couple of hours each day. The current store is not to be confused with Sylvia Beach's original Shakespeare & Co., which was a meeting place for such luminaries as Joyce, Hemingway, Antheil, et al (The current store appropriated Beach's name upon the lady's death in 1962--not of her own volition). One suspects that the new store does, however, retain much of the same feel as Beach's original.
Sylvia Beach years
The original bookstore's most famous proprietor was Sylvia Beach
. It was located at 12 rue de l'Odéon and was open from 1919 to 1941 (the store of the same name is currently located at 37 rue de la Bûcherie). During this era, the store was considered to be a center of Anglo/American literary culture in Paris. The shop was often visited by artists of the "Lost Generation
," such as Ernest Hemingway
, Ezra Pound
, F. Scott Fitzgerald
, Gertrude Stein
, George Antheil
, Man Ray
and James Joyce
. The contents of the store were considered high quality and reflected Beach's own literary taste. Shakespeare and Company, as well as its literary denizens, was repeatedly 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
and the United States
It was Beach who first published Joyce's book Ulysses
in 1922. The book was subsequently banned in the United States and United Kingdom
. The original Shakespeare and Company published several other editions of Ulysses
under its imprint in later years.
The original Shakespeare and Company was closed in December 1941, due to the occupation of France
by the Axis powers
during World War II
. Allegedly, the store was ordered shut because Beach denied a German officer the last copy of Joyce's Finnegans Wake
. The store at rue de l'Odéon never re-opened.
George Whitman Years
In 1951, another English-language bookstore was opened in Paris's Left Bank by American George Whitman
, under the name of Le Mistral. Much like its predecessor (which was at a different location), the store served as a focal point for literary culture in Bohemian
, Left Bank Paris. Upon Sylvia Beach's death, the store's name was changed to Shakespeare and Company. In the 1950s, the shop served as a base for many of the writers of the Beat Generation
, such as Allen Ginsberg
, Gregory Corso
, and William Burroughs
. Whitman's daughter, Sylvia, now runs the shop (see below). This store continues to operate at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, near Place St. Michel and steps from the Seine River
Regular activities that happen in the bookshop are Sunday Tea, Poetry readings and Writers meetings (informal & formal)
Sylvia Beach Whitman years
Whilst George hasn't passed away, day to day runnings have passed to his daughter, named after the first owner of Shakespeare and Company.
- Shakespeare and Company is featured in the third season of Highlander: The Series as a bookstore in Paris operated by Watcher Don Salzer. In the fourth season, the Immortal Methos uses a hidden room in the bookstore's cellar as storage space for his ancient journals.
- Shakespeare and Company is featured in the opening scene of the movie Before Sunset, where the protagonist Jesse Wallace is interviewed about his book.
- Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man is a one-hour documentary about the bookstore directed by Gonzague Pichelin and Benjamin Sutherland.
- Jeremy Mercer's experiences at Shakespeare and Company are the subject of his memoir Time Was Soft There (US 2005, St. Martin's Press)/Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs (UK).
- Shakespeare and Company is seen in the movie When Harry met Sally (1989), but it is actually the bookshop located at 939 Lexington Ave. (69th Street), in New York City, not the bookshop in Paris.