Thursday, November 22, 2007

Beach, Shakespeare and Paris

Books. My favourite medium of interior design. I live and work surrounded by books.

Paris. My favourite town.

The place where I wish I were. Right now.

Sylvia Beach was an American lady, only twenty-something in 1919, when she sent from Paris her mother a message asking for money. Mummy was in the USA.

Beach wanted to found a bookshop in Paris, and start selling American (and British and Irish) literature for the French. Literature she adored, and in a stimulating, lively, vivid town she had started to see as home.

This was not her original idea: at first she had wanted to run a bookshop in NY, but the rents were much higher there, and living costs in Paris were inexpensive.

She had lived in France and Switzerland, knew the language, so the decision was not that far-fetched.

Soon Shakespeare and Company was opened on the left bank, by Rue Dupyutren. And she started having guests. Boy, did she have some visitors! James Joyce. Among her closest friends. (Beach even published Ulusseus, the first print run being 1 000 copies, but Joyce suggested 12! Luckily Beach knew better.) Ezra Pound. There, too, of course. Ernest Hemingway. Well, sure. F. Scott Fitzgerald. How to avoid him, Hemingway and Pound being there, too? Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The eccentric lesbians, the Dynamic Duo of the Literary Life of Paris.

And many, many others.

(Picture: Beach with Joyce.)

Shakespeare and Company is probably the most comfortable, stylish, respected, well-known and attractive bookshop in the world.

I have been even dreaming of it lately. It's because I am reading the autobiography Sylvia Beach wrote in the 1950's. It is so interesting.

I am reading in Finnish, for a change.


I am thinking about that book all the time.

And I am leaving for Warsaw tomorrow.


Well, some history of WW II and the ghetto & highly artistic Polish posters will invade my mind.

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