Shakespeare and Company, Paris: The Rag And Bone Shop Of The Heart
Missed the Festival? Subscribe to the #CheltLitFest Player for £30 and watch over 100 events on demand up until 31 December 2021.
‘I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations.’ — George Whitman
Opened in 1951 by George Whitman, Shakespeare and Company has been a meeting place for writers and readers in the heart of Paris for over 70 years. Its name was bestowed by Sylvia Beach who saw it as a spiritual successor to her own bookshop which had been a meeting place for the great expat writers of the era: Hemingway, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Stein and Pound. From the day it opened its doors, Whitman’s bookshop showed a similar magic with James Baldwin, Anaïs Nin and Allen Ginsberg among its early visitors and thousands more writers, artists and intellectuals making use of the shop’s infamous ‘tumbleweed’ policy: sleeping for free in the stacks in exchange for helping in the shop. Georgina Godwin talks to its current owner and George’s daughter Sylvia Whitman on live link from the bookshop about life at the helm of one of Paris’ most treasured literary institutions.