If you’re feeling peckish after the bookstore, head over to the nearby restaurant Le Procope, once the regular hangout of such visionaries as Voltaire and Rousseau.
The Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore may well be the most famous independent bookshop in the world. It is currently in its second incarnation - the original was opened by Sylvia Beach in 1922, and became a regular haunt for a number of aspiring young writers including James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway. It closed in 1940 during the German occupation of Paris, but in 1951 George Whitman brought it back to life, opening his new store on rue de la Bûcherie in the 5th arrondissement.
As You Like It
Approaching the place today, it has all the dilapidated charm and easy homeliness that you would expect of a Beatnik Parisian cafe. Whitman once described it as a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore”, and it was this freethinking spirit which drew the likes of Henry Miller and Allen Ginsberg through its doors. When the sun is shining, the books spill out into the street, with battered old sets of shelves placed haphazardly around the ornate city drinking fountain in the small plaza adjoining the shop. This is also the venue for regular poetry readings and other literary events, which invariably draw a crowd.
Love’s Labours Found
The weather in northern France doesn’t always oblige, however, in which case everyone piles back inside. Here you will find veritable mountains of second-hand books arranged in some semblance of order, perused avidly by literary enthusiasts of every stripe. You can browse at your leisure, or retire to the cafe for a mug of hot tea and a slice of cake. Be sure to ask about the upcoming event schedule - Shakespeare and Co. usually has something up its sleeve!
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