Stay at Shakespeare and Company in Paris for Free!
The current Shakespeare and Co. follow in the tradition of the original store opened by Sylvia Beach in 1921. Beach's store, which was frequented by Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and Pound (and published Ulysses when no one else would), closed during WWII, but George Whitman, a friend of Beach, opened a new store in 1956. Whitman's store continued to attract writers like William Burroughs and Henry Miller, who described it as "a wonderland of books." It's currently run by his daughter Sylvia Whitman.
More Than a Bookstore
Not only is Shakespeare and Company an atmospheric bookstore, but it also provides a community to English-speaking expats and travelers, hosting a travel writing festival, a festival of literature, writing groups, photography workshops, and readings.
Why Shakespeare and Company is Important to Writers
Beyond providing reading material and inspiration, Shakespeare and Company allow writers to stay for free in exchange for helping out in the bookstore. The bookstore can accommodate five or six writers at a time, and writers may stay as long as they want. George Whitman's goal in instituting the practice was to provide writers time to write and, in his own words, "to repay the hospitality I received in many countries when I was a vagabond."
How to Arrange to Stay
In my own Eurail days, I was too shy to ask to stay at the shop, feeling that I wasn't enough of a "real writer." As it turns out, it's a fairly casual affair.
Even while I was there someone dropped in to ask about space and was told to check back in a day or so. Call or email in advance if you know your plans, or stop by to inquire. Note that accommodations are as casual as their booking system, however. If you're beyond backpacking, it's probably better to get a hotel room instead.
If you are interested in being a Tumbleweed (which is what they call people who stay at the bookshop), send an email with “Tumbleweed” in the subject line. The store's website stresses that privacy is not really an option and that all Tumbleweeds are expected are asked only to "read a book a day," help out in the shop for a couple of hours and write a single-page autobiography for George's archives.
Shakespeare and Company hold many literary events, from readings to discussions to story hours. Most of these events are free, so if you are in town, be sure to check out their calendar first. In addition, they have a great podcast which currently features Don Delillo!
They also give space for local workshops which are run externally, but which benefit the community. For more information on these offerings, click here.
The FestivalandCo is another event featured at Shakespeare and Company. Although there is currently no information on the next Festival, you can sign up for their newsletter here to stay up to date and get involved.
Getting to Shakespeare and Company
Shakespeare and Company is located at 37 rue de la Bucherie in the Latin Quarter, near métro Saint-Michel. Call them at 00 33 (0)1 43 25 40 93.
- Main Shop is open every day from 10 am to 11 pm.
- Antiquarian is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm.