Shakespeare and Company


Bonjour tout de monde!

I visited a popular English-language bookstore called “Shakespeare and Company,” founded by the American, George Whitman, in 1951, and located in the Left Bank of the Latin Quarter. Across the street of the bookstore is the Seine and the Notre Dame Cathedral. According to Whitman, the purpose of the bookstore was not only to be a home to writers and visitors from around the world but also a renewed cultural institution in Paris. In 2006, France’s Ministry of Culture award him the Officier des Arts et des Lettres for his lifelong contribution to the arts. Back in the United States, I go to bookstores to discover new books but I always end up leaving with a book that I’ve already read. Well…some things just never change. During my visit, I purchased a French copy of J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher of the Rye,” which I read while riding on the metro and RER. I thought it was interesting that the title of the book in French is “L’attrape-coeurs,” which literally translates to “The Heart Catcher.”

Originally, the bookstore was called “Le Mistral,” but on April 1964, on the 400th hundred anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, Whitman changed its name to Shakespeare and Company. In addition, the change of name was to pay homage to an American bookseller that Whitman admired – Sylvia Beach. She founded the first the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in 1919 at 12 Rue de l’Odean. It attracted great American writers of the time, such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and T.S. Eliot. The bookstore closed during the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1941.