37 Rue de la Bûcherie is a fairly well known address. Though it is not Sylvia Beach’s original 6th arrondissement lair, haunted I presume by the laughter, tobacco and now infamous words of souls such as Hemingway, Joyce or Fitzgerald, the current location is still quite popular amongst tourists stopping in for a book graced with the store’s iconic imprinted stamp. A sign hangs in the window discouraging the traveling paparazzi. We are a bookstore it quietly proclaims. Get lost in the stacks, sit in the chair in which Sylvia Beach once relaxed, but above all respect our guests.
Overlooking the towering spires of Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, this small, but quaint 5th arrondissement English bookstore originally entitled “Le Mistral” was opened by American George Whitman in 1951, ten years after Sylvia closed her store. It was renamed to “Shakespeare and Company” in 1964 in tribute to Sylvia Beach’s flagship store on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Beach’s store, once hailed the “Stratford-on-Odéon” by James Joyce, closed its doors in 1941 during the German occupation of WWII and never reopened.
I like to think that once the war had Paris in its grasp, things would never be the same. The soul is a hard thing to rebuild. Afterall, the Lost Generation author community who once walked the hallowed halls of Sylvia’s Odéon store in the post WWI 1920s was already in disarray by the onset of WWII. Ford Madox Ford died in 1939, Fitzgerald passed in 1940, Joyce in ’41, Gertrude Stein in ’46. Hemingway had long since left Paris in March 1928 proclaiming he would “never again live in a big city.” But a legacy such as Beach’s is hard to silence.
Whitman’s current store stands in true tribute to all that Sylvia’s once witnessed. Hers was, for all intents and purpose, a voice of a generation. Just inside the front door on the left hand wall is a section dedicated to the lost generation. Perhaps it was just the layout of the space, but it seems symbolic that these rows dedicated to the popular voices of modern literature would fall on the left hand side much as the store has always opened its doors on Paris’ left bank. And though the texts are organized alphabetically, it seems fitting that Fitzgerald and Hemingway would feature most prominently at eye level.
As you walk through tunnels of tomes, stacked to the ceiling like a mountain, you eventually land at a small café at the back of the store where you can enjoy a coffee, a piece of pie, tranches de quiche or a palm sized snack salad. This recipe is an homage to the one I purchased at the Shakespeare & Company Café and enjoyed with a gorgeous minted ginger lemonade back at my hotel.
- 1 cup loosely packed arugula, washed and dried
- 2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
- 1 tablespoon red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon crumbled feta
- Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
- Generously season the arugula with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a teaspoon of red wine vinegar and 2 teaspoons of olive oil, stirring until each leave is nicely coated. Top with a tablespoon each of thinly sliced red onion, pink pearly pomagranate seeds and snow white crumbled feta. Delicious!