Besides music one of my other great loves is literature and it is through a big interest in the Beat Generation writers that I first came upon, what is for me at least, the best bookshops in the world called Shakespeare and Company which can be found in Paris (it’s heaven on earth). The bookshop became a central hub for the many of the Beat Generation who were lodging at the nearby bohemian Beat Hotel during the late 1950’s. A hotel that offered incredibly cheap lodging and a peaceful refuge for poets, writers and even members of the French resistance who helped the Algerian liberation movement in defiance of their government at the time. Unfortunately the hotel has long since been upgraded.
Shakespeare and Company is one such place that has remained unchanged and is still run on the same principals: “a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore”. It is situated at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, in the 5th arrondissement. The first Shakespeare and Company was actually opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach and became a gathering place for many of the Lost Generation during the 1920’s including Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. It closed in 1940 during the German occupation of Paris and never re-opened.
George Whitman opened the current store in 1951 under the name Le Mistral, changing it in 1964, after Sylvia Beach’s death, to Shakespeare and Company in tribute to the original venture. He lived above the shop until 2011 where he died just two days after his 98th birthday. Despite suffering a stroke two months earlier he continued to read everyday in the company of friends and his daughter Sylvia who manages the store. The store attracts people from across the globe and is a lot more than just a bookshop, hosting live music, a literature festival and so much more. It also offers free residence to writers and poets (it has 13 beds) in return for working two hours per day in the store which is open from mid-day to midnight every day including Christmas!
Piers Faccini recently dropped by the store to play some songs from his latest album Between Dogs and Wolves, our Song of the Day is a song from that session called Black Rose. Watch him performing in Shakespeare and Company below…you may need to turn your volume up as this is a very quiet and intimate track. There is a brief loss of sound/image for about three seconds before the song starts but it doesn’t detract from the film…enjoy!
Here’s a mini documentary that was made back in 2007 about Shakespeare and Company:
Sam Amidon will be playing a concert at Shakespeare and Company on 22 November.
Between Dogs and Wolves is released 23 Sep 2013
Order it here