George Whitman, the longtime owner of Shakespeare & Company in Paris, died yesterday in his apartment above the store. He was 98 and had suffered a stroke two months ago, according to his daughter, Sylvia.
Founded in 1951, Shakespeare & Company has been a legendary bookstore, what in a long tribute, the New York Times called "an offbeat mix of open house and literary commune." Whitman was famous for providing room and board in the store to writers and booklovers, some 40,000 over the years, he estimated. He asked his guests to help out in the store, and was known at times to be erratic and dramatic. Still, he was a patron of writers and readers. He commented: "I wanted a bookstore because the book business is the business of life."
After World War II, Whitman moved to Paris and began selling English-language books at a kiosk, then opened a store called Le Mistral. In 1964, the store took the name Shakespeare & Company, to commemorate the bard's 400th birthday and to honor Sylvia Beach, who owned the famous Shakespeare & Company in the 1920s and '30s.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Very sad news I just read this on Shelf Awareness. We have lost another great bookstore owner, George Whitman, the longtime owner of Shakespeare & Company in Paris has passed away. I first read of George Whiteman and his amazing store in "Time was Soft there" by Jeremy Mercer. Since then I have always wanted to travel to Paris to visit his store. I hope it is still there when I actually get the chance to visit, though I image it will not be the same without George.