Most distressingly, my access to the internet has been lukewarm throughout my trip to Paris. Even more distressingly, due to an industrious spurt of bookshop tourism, I have an alarmingly large backlog of Parisian bookporn, which may trickle out over the next few weeks. The first of a series, then: the much-filmed, much-famed Shakespeare and Company, as featured in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. It is a glorious labyrinth, stacked liberally to the rafters with a crush of books —
— and full of exhortations for hippie generosity. Shakespeare & Co, an American-run bookstore, has established a tradition of taking penniless travellers and starving artistes under its roof, providing a bed in exchange for two hours’ work at the till. On the second floor, where all the beds are stuffed into various nooks and crannies, there is a sign painted on the wall above a door: “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise”. On the ground floor, there is this, a simple plea set into the step:
and they have, naturally, one of the best selections of English-language books I’ve ever seen in a foreign city, where the locals are resolutely monolingual, where the shopkeepers are rude and the museum keepers ruder, the streets thronged with inhospitable but fascinating strangers, and where, alas, the baguettes make up for all the iniquities.
happy new year!