Monday, August 15, 2011

Shakespeare & Co. and Midnight in Paris~ A Respite

On one of my last trips to Paris,
I spent a day going from cafe to church to bookstore to write.
And the bookstore was none other than the famous Shakespeare and Co.

...which feels a little like a place of respite in Paris.
After a day of struggling with the language,
it's refreshing to step into a world of books in English
and young salespeople speaking it.  

Though I know it's not the original location,
it still makes me think of the writers of the 20's who spent time at the original store:
James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Thornton Wilder,
Andre Gide, Gertrude Stein, Man Ray and so many more. 

George Whitman (rumored to be the grand-nephew of Walt Whitman)
opened it as Le Mistral in 1951. According to one blogger (Talkin Travel),
before her death, Sylvia Beach, who started the original S.& Co. called George's bookstore,
"the spiritual successor" to her store. 
She willed many of her books to him and after her death, he changed the store's name. 

~My writing spot~

 Shakespeare and Co. is a respite in Paris much the same way 
the film 'Midnight in Paris' is a respite to our lives. 
A jaded writer gets to travel back in time (in an antique roadster)
and do exactly what so many of us wish we could do:
meet the writers of the 1920's, share a drink with them, 
talk writing with them and hear about their lives and their stories. 

The film touches on a universal theme of the human condition:
wanting what you can't have.

Though I'm not sure I would want to stay permanently in 1920's Paris,
what I wouldn't give for a visit (or two) and access to those conversations.
And although I myself tend to question writer/director Woody Allen's personal motives 
for the gorgeous jewel he has bestowed on his audiences,
he does offer us his fantasy
of the chance to have both that visit and access!  

(Shakespeare and Company photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)


  1. Oh Kirsten dearest,

    I have yet to see this movie that I hear is just wonderful. I love Woody Allen myself, and of course, writing. YOUR PHOTOS TAKE ME HOME...I believe it was at this very bookshop that I visited the day before I left Paris. I discovered so much in that last day of sightseeing, and came home with a 3 volume set of Les Miserables in French, and I devoured it instantly. How are you dear one? Writing lately? I go back to the classroom soon, in 9 days. I will be in meetings, classroom preparation and workshops in order to welcome the kids after Labor Day.

    Have a splendid day! Anita

  2. I just love this store to death...did you happen to see Craig Ferguson's show when he was filming in Paris a few weeks ago? He shot in the shop ( i think it may be on You Tube), and it was hysterical and brilliant :) Can't wait to see this film!
    Have a great week!

  3. Hi Kirsten!
    Thanks for your good wishes for my respite, my dear. All is well.
    Thanks for reminding me about this movie...I forgot. This is the first time I heard what it is about. Now I want to see it more than ever. Love your little nook at the famous Shakespeare's!
    Have a great weekend.....

  4. Such a wonderful place... a church for people like us, isn't it?


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