Tinder Press on Tour: Elizabeth visits Shakespeare & Company
December 4, 2015
‘I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations’ George Whitman
Last month I had a long weekend away in Paris with my husband, brother and sister-in-law and obviously a trip to Shakespeare and Company was on the agenda. Our accommodation definitely wasn’t planned on the basis of how close it was to the bookshop… promise.
Shakespeare and Company is, simply put, beautiful. We spent two hours in there and I feel like we didn’t even scratch the surface let alone understand the history behind the bookshop. In a situation that seems unbelievable to us now, writers and intellectuals were actually invited to sleep overnight in the shop and they estimate that over 30,000 artists have stayed there since its opening. George referred to his shop as a ‘socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore’ – eat your heart out David Willis!*
I was beyond delighted to see so many Tinder Press books from Sarah Leipciger to Roopa Farooki, Patrick Gale to Sarah Winman and they all looked beautiful nestled in the busy shelves. I purchased the first in the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan quartet as an early Christmas present to myself because I feel like the last person on the plant to have done so and, of course, I now have a coveted stamp from one of the most brilliant, bright and beautiful bookshops in the world.
5 things you didn’t know about Shakespeare and Company:
1. Since the 1980s, bookshop visitors have been leaving messages – to readers, strangers, lovers – on their Mirror of Love (behind the red velvet drapes in the children’s section).
2. When the store first opened, it was called Le Mistral. George changed it to the present name in April 1964 – on the four-hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth – in honour of a bookseller he admired, Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919.
3. The bookshop sheltered around 20 of its customers during the Paris attacks.
5. The bookshop has featured in the Richard Linklater film Before Sunset, and in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. The store and the owner George Whitman has been the subject of Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man, a 2003 documentary film directed by Benjamin Sutherl and Gonzague Pichelin.
For more information…
Website – https://shakespeareandcompany.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Shakespeare_Co
*Texan, David Willis, was famously locked in Waterstones Trafalgar Square overnight when staff locked the doors with him still inside.