French bookshops Posted by Bridgette on Sep 24, 2021 in Literature
La lecture est une amitié.1Reading is a friendship – Marcel Proust
Je n’ai jamais eu de chagrin qu’une heure de lecture n’ait dissipé.2I have never had any sorrow that an hour of reading did not dissipate. – Montesquieu
It’s officially fall, and what better way to spend it then cozied up with a book? Today I want to highlight some French bookshops, past and present, and a recommendation for your next French read!
La Maison des Amis des Livres
Adrienne Monnier opened up La Maison Des Amis Des Livres (The House of Friends of Books) in 1915. She was one of the first woman booksellers in France, and opened the store at a time of genuine need since many booksellers had left their work to join the war effort. She remained open throughout the German occupation providing a place of solace for Parisians. The store closed in 1951 as Monnier’s health began to decline.
Shakespeare and Company is an iconic English-language bookstore opened in 1951 by George Whitman, located on Paris’ Left Bank.
It is named after Sylvia Beach’s bookstore of the same name which was opened in 1919 and forced closed in 1941 during the German occupation of France. Sylvia Beach was an American expat from New Jersey, and was encouraged and advised by Adrienne Monnier when opening up her shop. Shakespeare and Company became the center of Anglo-American literary culture in Paris, and many famous writers spent a great deal of time there, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. Beach was imprisoned for six months by the Nazis, and was unable to reopen her store after her release.
Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier were both “bookstore patron saints” opening up stores that served as a way to connect their community as well as serve as the birthplace of modern literature. Shakespeare and Company today continues the work of these women as they establish literary events and they even house aspiring writers and artists in exchange for helping out around the bookstore. Since the shop opened in 1951, more than 30,000 people have slept in the beds found tucked between bookshelves. The shop’s motto, “Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise”, is written above the entrance to the reading library.
A recommended read for this fall:
La Bête Humaine (1890)
La Bête Humaine (The Beast Within), the seventeenth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series, is one of Zola’s most violent and explicit works. On one level a tale of murder, passion, and possession, it is also a compassionate study of individuals derailed by atavistic forces beyond their control:
“Un mécanicien de locomotive, tourmenté par une lourde hérédité, et qui ne s’entend vraiment qu’avec sa machine… Une femme qui semble née pour faire le malheur de tous les hommes qui l’approchent… Un juge pétri de préjugés, prêt à renier la justice au profit de l’intérêt social ou politique… Tels sont les personnages de ce drame, un des plus sombres qu’ait imaginés le romancier des Rougon-Macquart
Vivante et précise comme un reportage, puissante comme une épopée, son évocation du monde des chemins de fer au moment de leur âge d’or va de pair avec la vision d’une humanité en proie à ses démons héréditaires et sociaux – l’alcoolisme, la misère -, et chez qui la jalousie et la convoitise charnelle portent le meurtre comme la nuée porte l’orage.”
If you have any suggestions for a good French book, share them below!
- 1Reading is a friendship
- 2I have never had any sorrow that an hour of reading did not dissipate.
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