Friday 15 December 2017

Au revoir, George

Sir -- It was with mixed feelings of sadness, tinged with wonderful recollections of a unique Paris institution, that I and my uncle read the article on George Whitman (Sunday Independent, December 18) and Shakespeare and Company, his unique bookshop cum soup kitchen cum literary hostel.

I, as a Beat-obsessed (and blonde French student-chasing) boho, was blessed to experience the joys of George's esoteric tea parties, which he regularly held on Sundays upstairs in his bookshop, in the mid-Eighties. I had yearned to see where William Burroughs' Naked Lunch first raised its definitely ugly but also literature-changing head and where Allen Ginsberg (fortified by copious quantities of wine) performed his Howl on the pavement outside.

The original Shakespeare and Company was on Rue de L'Odeon, run by Sylvia Beach, another American who ran a haven for writers that just happened to be a bookstore, where the likes of F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound discussed books and drank tea in the private parlour.

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