Thursday, October 14, 2010

The World's Most Famous Bookshop - Shakespeare & Co.

For half a century, a crowded bookshop set on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame, has offered food and a bed to penniless authors - the only rule is that they read a book a day. "Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise" is the revered bookshop's motto. 

In 1951 after World War II , George Whitman a demobbed GI,  had decided not to return to America, had chosen Paris as his home and decided to open a bookstore. George opened his doors midday to midnight, and the deal then is the deal now: sleep in the shop, on tiny beds hidden among the bookstacks; work for two hours a day helping out with the running of the place; and, crucially, read a book a day, whatever you like, but all the way through, unless maybe it's War and Peace, in which case you can take two days.

George took in the beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Henry Miller ate from the stewpot, but was too grand to sleep in the tiny writers' room. Anaïs Nin left her will under George's bed. There are signed photos from Rudolf Nureyev and Jackie Kennedy, signed copies of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.

Thousands of people have come through his doors, slept in his shop, eaten at his table, and many of them still write to him, or return.