Shakespeare and Company is the bookish tourist’s equivalent of Times Square. I first went to Paris in 2007, but, ingenue that I was at the time, I hadn’t yet heard of this glorious little literary Mecca. But by the time I went for my second time, about a year ago, it was at last on my to-go list. Though my husband and I attempt to seek out the truth of a city and avoid the biggest tourist traps, I couldn’t resist the lure of paying a visit to this storied and historic Left Bank book shop. Shortly thereafter I came across Time Was Soft There, writer Jeremy Mercer’s memoir of the year he spent living at Shakespeare and Company, and I was bewitched.
In case you aren’t familiar with it, Shakespeare and Company was first opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, an American expat and a member of the “Lost Generation.” The original English language bookstore was located first at 8 rue Dupuytren before moving to 12 rue de l’Odéon. It survived the Great Depression, but Beach was forced to close it down after the German invasion of France. Per Wikipedia, “Ernest Hemingway symbolically liberated the shop in person in 1944, but it never reopened for business.” (Fun side note: Hemingway mentions the shop in A Moveable Feast, a book for which, as you might have guessed, I harbor a certain fondness.) More