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“Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.”
Former owner George Whitman left behind a legacy of compassion and a love for books at Shakespeare and Company, the famous English-language bookstore by the Seine River in Paris. The original Shakespeare and Company bookstore — which was a literary hub that attracted writers Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce, among others — closed in 1941, but the name was bequeathed to Whitman’s shop in 1964.
Though the late Whitman bears no relation to writer Walt Whitman, the latter’s earnest curiosity about the world and welcoming nature permeate the walls of the former’s book shop. Many writers over the years — including Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and Ray Bradbury — have frequented the independent bookstore to log hours writing in the sympathetic presence of published works, borrowing said works from the shelves and even sleeping there.
Fast-forward to 2017: A pair of English majors walk into a bookstore. No, this isn’t the start of some corny joke, but rather the true premise that led to my travel companion and I logging some hours of our own at Shakespeare and Company during a weekend trip to Paris. Every conceivable surface and shelf of the two-story shop was stacked to the ceilings with books, which might make anyone else claustrophobic, but to us, it opened up a world of reading possibilities. Although prices are slightly marked up, I suspect it’s for the “free” stamp visitors can get in their books declaring that they bought them at Shakespeare and Company. Not that I mind — after all, some books are created by angels in disguise.
The DetailsShakespeare and Companyshakespeareandcompany.com