George Whitman, 1913-2011

George Whitman, owner of Paris’s Shakespeare & Company bookstore, has died at 98. I visited this Left Bank institution a few years ago and remember walking quietly through the stacks to avoid waking sleeping boarders. Famously, people were permitted to sleep in the shop in exchange for a few hours of labor in the store. The shop was directly across the Seine from Notre Dame and specialized in English language materials. Whitman was a great influence on the expatriate community that flocked to Paris in the 1950s. Acolytes included George Plimpton, a founder of the Paris Review, and Lawrence Ferlingetthi, who modeled his San Francisco establishment City Lights Books on the Paris bookstore. Whitman will be buried in Pere Lachaise.

(image/Celebrate Greatness)

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2 responses to “George Whitman, 1913-2011

  1. Charley

    It was Christmas time a score of years ago. I visited Paris for the first time. By 3:00 p.m. the sun had already set as I walked along the Seine. There by happenstance I walked by Shakespeare and Co. The warm glow of the bookstore invited me in. As real as it was, I had walked into a dream. The dream I dreamed long ago in my middle-western town. I was just a kid then, but I dreamed a grown-up dream that someday I would be in Paris. Quiet would be all around me because I was in the hushed smart walls of this very same shop I visited twenty years ago and that I remembered today. RIP George Whitman, but today the reality of my dream lives on and on with books all around me.