Wednesday, December 14, 2011

George Whitman and Shakespeare & Co.

From the NYTimes:

PARIS — George Whitman, the American-born owner of Shakespeare & Company, a fabled English-language bookstore on the Left Bank in Paris and a magnet for writers, poets and tourists for close to 60 years, died on Wednesday in his apartment above the store. He was 98. Read more here.

I had the good fortune, in the summer of 1979, to sub-let a Paris apartment with a college friend. When we weren't idling away long afternoons-into-evenings lingering over a single glass of Côtes du Rhône (very limited budget!) we could often be found at Shakespeare & Co., amid the musty books shelved, stacked and piled floor to rafters. It was a maze and all quite amazing, and we felt like a part of some secret society, like characters from a page of French history. Once George Whitman, who I remember as somewhat cantankerous, gave me a vintage Parisian address book, circa 1900, with marbled end-papers and written in elaborate fountain-pen script. (I still have it -- when I dig it up I'll post a photo.)

What I've seen of this film is marvelous (I admit I've jumped around in it) -- but I'd venture to say that it's worth all 52 minutes if you are even remotely interested in Paris, literature, or quirky characters.


  1. I've actually been in this shop, but not sure if I remember it being owned by an American. Maybe I spoke to no-one. I wonder if it'll now close?

  2. I've been there, too, and am sad to hear of this wonderful man's death. Thank you for posting about it as I seem to have missed the news. Now I'm off to watch the video.

  3. Wow. Just watched the whole film. That last scene was wild. Thank you for posting this --

  4. Thanks, T. There is no place like it in the world, and no one like its cantankerous late proprietor--your post and the video bring back lovely memories. xo