This one is a cheat. I’ll only add ones I’ve been to from here on out, but this might be one of the few places I really have a strong desire to go to. Shakespeare and Company was originally opened in Paris’s left bank by an American named Sylvia Beach in November 1919. It was the only English bookstore at the time. The store has since moved locations and clearly changed ownership, but it’s legacy remains. During the early twentieth century Shakespeare and Company was a common hot spot for literary giants such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Ford Maddox Ford.James Joyce was actually said to have used it as an office, and Ernest Hemingway wrote about the store and it’s patrons in A Moveable Feast. This wasn’t just a store, it was a place for people to meet, mingle, write, read, and talk. It was a book bar for all intents and purposes. These people spent their lives there, their social lives happened there, their work lives happened there, this was the backdrop of the Lost Generation.
The store acted as more than a backdrop for the Lost Generation though, it also acted as a publishing company. The owner, Sylvia Beach was the first to publish Ulysses by James Joyce which was promptly banned in the US and Britain. She also published Ernest Hemingway’s first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems. In 1941 while France was under German occupation the bookstore was ordered to close. There have long been rumors in the literary world that one of the reasons it was ordered to close was that Sylvia Beach refused to hand over a final copy of Finnigans Wake to a German officer knowing the books certain fate had she handed it over. While not corroborated I go on believing this rumor is true so I can have a huge idol in my head.
In 1951 a new English bookstore opened in Paris’s left bank which was eventually re-named Shakespeare and Company and modeled after the original. This became a new literary hub for the beat generation with patrons such as Alan Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs who is said to have researched some of the material for The Naked Lunch there. Artists such as Jim Morrison and Octavia Paz are also said to have spent time there as well.
But beyond the literary crowd and the famous names it is known as a place for the lost wandering traveler to find some comfort. It is famous among the wandering crowd, the vagabonds, the writers, and the bohemians all stop there regularly to try their hands at writing the next great novel.
Paris is a faraway dream. It’s expensive and nearly impossible for a foreign passport holder to find work in. I don’t care though. It’s still there as a place I intend to get to even if I’m 70 when it happens. I can only hope that some version of this bookstore will still be there so I can just sit there for an hour or so and pretend it could have been me there with Hemingway and Pound drinking and writing life away.