Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart
Krista Halverson and Jeanette Winterson
George Whitman opened his bookstore in a tumbledown 16th-century building just across the Seine from Notre-Dame in 1951, a decade after the original Shakespeare and Company had closed. Run by Sylvia Beach, it had been the meeting place for the Lost Generation and the first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses. (This book includes an illustrated adaptation of Beach’s memoir.) Since Whitman picked up the mantle, Shakespeare and Company has served as a home-away-from-home for many celebrated writers, from Jorge Luis Borges to Ray Bradbury, A.M. Homes to Dave Eggers, as well as for young authors and poets. Visitors are invited not only to read the books in the library and to share a pot of tea, but sometimes also to live in the shop itself – all for free. More than 30,000 people have stayed at Shakespeare and Company, fulfilling Whitman’s vision of a ‘socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore’. Through the prism of the shop’s history, the book traces the lives of literary expats in Paris from 1951 to the present, touching on the Beat Generation, civil rights, May ’68 and the feminist movement – all while pondering that perennial literary question, ‘What is it about writers and Paris?’.
Krista Halverson is director of the newly founded Shakespeare and Company publishing house. She was previously managing editor of Zoetrope: All-Story, a fiction and art magazine published by Francis Coppola and based in San Francisco. Jeanette Winterson is an award-winning writer, most famous for her semi-autobiographical novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. She is also a broadcaster and a professor of creative writing.