This quaint bookshop along the banks of the Seine opened in 1951, and hardly anything from its original wooden interior has changed since. Its previous iteration, which opened in 1922 but closed down during the German occupation of Paris, was heralded as the hang-out for then-unknown années folles (Crazy Years) writers such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound.
The bookshop still embodies that rebellious disaffected spirit and remains the bastion of English-language literature amidst its French-speaking surroundings. The magic of this shop is not necessarily in its break taking view of Notre-Dame from across the quay, but rather in its steadfast tradition of opening its doors to itinerant artists who need a place to stay while in Paris—to date some 30,000 of them.
The shop fondly refers to them as Tumbleweeds, and there are only three things asked of them during their stay: read a book a day, help at the shop for a few hours a day, and produce a one-page autobiography. The latter now form part of Shakespeare & Company’s ever-growing archive of stories from travelers who have found hospitality within its walls.
Sounds very civilized, as my travel buddy, Mr. Mike would say!
I assume the closest facsimile here in the U.S. would be City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. City Lights has a definite “feel” to it. I have written about City Lights several times. It is my favorite bookstore. In fact, it almost went belly up during the start of the pandemic, saved only by generous donors through a Go Fund Me.
Having been a world traveler, it is difficult for me to pass by a bookstore without at least a brief visit. Even a book kiosk at an airport causes great anguish if I cannot browse for a few minutes.
My last three reads: Cadillac Desert (boring), the Mary Trump book (depressing), and The Book Thief (sad but insightful)! Quite a contrast of content!