A new chapter has opened for the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. (Blog 12/30/14) Having endured the German invasion of World War II, this bookstore, home to waves of struggling and famous writers, would have died with its owner, Sylvia Beach, if George Whitman hadn’t stepped in to run the place. He continued the tradition of giving succor to struggling artists and keeping the establishment as a place where eclectic readers were always welcome. To a romantic, the chaos was irresistible. Every tumbled shelf promised adventure.
George Whitman had only one remaining dream: to add a coffee shop, a literary café where a work by Scott Fitzgerald, a cappuccino and a slice of lemon pie could be purchased and enjoyed as a single, aesthetic experience. The corner shop next to his was full of promise but though every weekend the owner of Shakespeare and Company paid a visit to his corner neighbor, his offer to take over the site was refused. (“Literati Who Lunch,” by Lesley M. Blume, Vanity Fair, December 2015, pg. 96.) In 2011, George Whitman died without fulfilling his dream.
Fortunately, his daughter, Sylvia, took over his premises and his dream. First, she managed the bookstore with only a few alterations, doing nothing to disturb its ambiance. Second, she set about pursuing her father’s dream of an adjoining café. Eventually, her persistence paid off. Today, Shakespeare and Company is conjoined with the Shakespeare and Company Café. Now a lover of books can gorge him or herself on the pleasures of Dostoyevsky and lemon pie together, as George Whitman had envisioned. Or, if the weather is inviting, the shop will provided picnic lunches, enabling a person to follow Hemingway’s trail to the edge of the Seine where he liked to edit books. (Ibid pg. 96)
The sign over the new location reads, “Open door, open books open mind, open heart.” (Ibid pg. 96) I’m inclined to think, “open mouths,” might have been added to the list, but presuming the lemon pie is delectable, one needn’t state the obvious. In any case, it’s wonderful to know dreams do come true.
(First published 12/2/15)