the best is yet to come

Shakespeare & His Bros

Four years ago, I spent a magical summer in Paris, capturing memories in a long-forgotten blog. Every Thursday, I’ll post my favorite entries from that blog. This is reprinted from 7-18-10. [yes, I know this one is late, but I didn’t have internet in my Chinese apartment for three days]



Shakespeare and Company is one of Paris’s only English language bookstores. It’s a conglomerate of ex-pats, tourists, and people like me (what kind of category is ‘people like me’? truthfully, I’m not too sure yet). Like any Parisian book store, it’s musty and crowded to the point that I need to give people the stink look so that they let me pass through its narrow hallways. However, the second level of Shakespeare and Company is something else. There is a sofa bed, cookbooks, a piano, rows upon rows of books that we can touch and read but not buy because they are ancient and antique, comfy chairs, a coffee table, a cubicle with a typewriter and handwritten notes (from “Ashley wuz here 06-08-2010”, to angsty poetry, to french exclamations). The floor itself is too much to take in, but the cubicle looks something like this:




0 thoughts on “Shakespeare & His Bros”

  • Wow. I’m going to come back at you with another Radio 4 reference as I remembered hearing about another Paris bookshop where all the people who worked there were travelling writer volunteers and worked their keep and they all slept in the shop. I then looked it up to see that it was indeed ‘Shakespeare and Company’ too! It explains the sofa bed.

    A lot of celebrity writers, including the beat poets, have links with that shop. It was founded by Sylvia Beach who was the person who first published James Joyce’s Ulysses.

    I see from the BBC news website (is that banned to you in China?) that the owner for a number of decades, George Whitman, died just after you were there in 2011. So even though it looks identical in their picture it makes you wonder how the book shop has survived / changed since. It will be interesting for you to go back and see!

    • Oh man, everything is banned in China, but I’ve been managing to access the forbidden parts of the internet (mostly the NYTimes) via a VPN. I think it’ll be interesting to go back there now that I’m experiencing the longing for home as an ex-pat as opposed to a tourist when I was in Paris last. I’m planning a trip back to Europe next spring and I probably won’t make it home until then so it’ll be a brand new experience.

      • On that subject I was just wondering the other day, after hearing a programme about the major “Christian” cult that is sweeping through China – basically brainwashing people to empty them of their cash, promising them the end of the world, and getting them to kill family and strangers – who you may well know of, although I won’t name it here as I don’t want to get you in trouble.

        I just wondered that if there was more publicity about their goings on then surely it could only help people not to fall for their tricks. Saying that there have been very recent end-of the-world cults in America that sound very similar. The Freakonomics authors showed in one of their books that female abuse in rural Indian families was drastically reduced by the availability of TV and access to sitcoms and the like.

        It just makes you think a different approach would help rather than trying to sweep it all under the carpet: “Rural Indian families who got cable TV began to have a lower birthrate than families without TV. Families with TV were also more likely to keep their daughters in school, which suggests that girls were seen as more valuable, or at least deserving of equal treatment.”

        • Oh no, I actually haven’t heard of them until I looked it up! (shows how much information is available here) Since WordPress itself is actually also banned in China, I think it’s one of the only places that it’s possible to speak freely on. Even with a VPN, most websites like the NYTimes or the BBC slow to a crawl.

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