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Hemingway Adventure

Paris, France (third day)

Paris, France 
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Shakespeare and Company, Valhalla for book lovers. The shop's unorthodox services include sleeping accommodation amongst the shelves, a flat above the shop for visiting writers, Sunday tea and Christmas Day opening. Hemingway was a regular visitor to the old Shakespeare and Company and borrowed books that often failed to find their way back.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureThough neither Sylvia Beach nor the original Shakespeare and Company are still going, a bookshop bearing the same name and run on affectionately eccentric lines by an American called George Whitman, has been open for business down by the Seine since 1964.

There has grown up quite a fashion lately for bookstores to provide ancillary services such as food and drink and reading rooms, but George, a handsome man of mature years with a tweed jacket and a mop of chalk-white hair, is way ahead of the game. Shakespeare and Company is the only bookstore I know where you can sleep overnight, be brought a cup of tea in a bed set in an alcove in the middle of the Children’s Book department and have Notre Dame cathedral as the view out of your window. The shop is open every day of the year, including Christmas Day, and if you turn up on any Sunday George and his interns will serve you tea.

George welcomes me this morning and apologises for not being a great Hemingway fan. He thinks The Sun Also Rises his best book by far, but reckons he was not a patch on Theodore Dreiser.

Apparently Hemingway’s behaviour when he visited the old shop was not always the best. When he idly picked up a magazine and found a critical review of his work headlined ‘The Dumb Ox’, he grew so angry that he punched a vase of tulips, smashing the vase, decapitating the flowers and sending water pouring over the book display - thus neatly endorsing the title of the review. He was also, says George, very bad at returning library books.

‘Mind you, Henry Miller was worse.’

We climb up a precarious ladder to George’s office on the first floor, passing so many shelves, so densely packed, that it seems as if the shop may actually be held together by its books. It’s conceivable that if you remove one strategically placed volume, you might bring the lot down and vanish for ever beneath an avalanche of literature.
Paris, France 
click to enlarge 
file size
Shakespeare and Company, Valhalla for book lovers. The shop's unorthodox services include sleeping accommodation amongst the shelves, a flat above the shop for visiting writers, Sunday tea and Christmas Day opening. Hemingway was a regular visitor to the old Shakespeare and Company and borrowed books that often failed to find their way back.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Paris, France (third day)
  • Country/sea: France
  • Place: Paris
  • Book page no: 81

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RELATED LINKS

  • France
  • Day 1 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 78 
  • Around the World in 80 Days

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