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The Shakespeare & Co bookstore in Paris was infected with the virus calling for help



PARIS (AP) – Shakespeare and Company, the iconic Parisian bookstore that published James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in 1922, is calling for readers’ support after losses related to the epidemic and locking services. France’s spring coronavirus put the Left Bank’s future into doubt.

Last week, the English bookstore on the Seine sent an email to customers informing them that they were facing “hard times” and encouraging them to buy books. Paris began to close new on October 30, seeing all non-essential stores close for the second time in seven months.

“We have been (down) 80% since our first detention in March, so at this point we have used all our savings,”

; said Sylvia Whitman, daughter of the late owner. friend George Whitman, said.

Since submitting her appeal via email, Whitman says she has been “overwhelmed” by the offers of help Shakespeare and the Company have received. There were a record 5,000 online orders in a week, compared with about 100 in a normal week – a 50-fold increase.

Support has come from all walks of life: from low-class students to former French President Francois Hollande, who stopped by the bookstore overlooking Notre Dame before closing in response to the call.

Many Parisians have reached out to Whitman to donate to the bookstore – without buying a book – and share memories of falling in love there or even sleeping between its shelves.

“(My father) let people sleep in the bookstore and called them ‘rioters’. We’ve got 30,000 people sleeping in the bookstore, ”Whitman said, adding that was a way the store founders encouraged creative writers. Indeed, the store’s wall motto reads: “Don’t be filial to strangers lest they are angels in disguise.”

The surge of loyalty is perhaps not surprising for the place often described as the world’s most famous independent bookstore. Founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919, Shakespeare & Company became the creative hub for foreign writers including Ernest Hemingway, TS Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce.

Reflecting on Beach’s decision to publish “Ulysses”, Joyce’s 700-page breakout novel, Whitman said: “No one else dares to publish it all … She became one of the smallest publishers. of one of the greatest books of the century. ”

Joyce often calls the Beach’s bookstore “Stratford-upon-Odeon”, merging the store’s street address with Shakespeare’s birthplace. Irish writer will use it as an office.

“They all use her bookstore as a sanctuary,” Whitman said.

During World War II, as the store’s story goes, Beach shut down Shakespeare and Company in 1941 after refusing to sell the final copy of Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” to a Nazi officer. The bookstore reopened in 1951, with a new address and owner – George Whitman. The rest is history.

Since the call to email last week, it’s not just Whitman’s daughter that has been overwhelmed. The Shakespeare and Company website, run by a small group of people, is overflowing with book orders and donations.

Sylvia Whitman looks to the past for a solution to her new problem.

Inspired by how bookstores weathered the worldwide financial downturn from the Wall Street crash of 1929, she founded the Friends of Shakespeare and Company fund with a website link that backers had. clickable to submit a donation.

“It was inspired by Sylvia Beach during the Great Depression, who was clearly having a hard time. Many foreigners had to leave Paris, because it was too expensive, so she and her friends founded Friends of Shakespeare and Company, ”said Whitman.

While the bookstore is an institution in Paris, Whitman maintains the eccentric and idyllic spirit she seems to have inherited from her late father, George.

At some point in the interview with The Associated Press, Shakespeare and Company resident dog, named Colette, was interrupted with a bark. Whitman says it is because Colette has a strong opinion on a number of issues.

Shakespeare and Company ‘s financial troubles did not begin with the coronavirus pandemic. Paris in recent years has been a catastrophe that has caused many enduring problems for small shops and businesses that depend on foreign tourists – from terrorist attacks and anti-government protests to fires. panic in April 2019 causing Notre Dame to close.

Like many indie stores, competition from the online retailer Amazon has also cooled commerce, although Shakespeare and Company has been shielded over most bookstores by its reputation.

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Oleg Cetinic contributed to this report.


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