Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bookstores in Paradise

If you know me fairly well, you know that I have two favorite bookstores: Shakespeare and Company in Paris and Atlantis Books in Greece. To me, these bookstores are incredible, magical, and wonderful beyond my wildest imagination. Why? Well, the bookstores are located in Paris and on the island of Santorini, two very romantic places. But the real secret is that both bookstores are really cooperatives where writers, artists, and friends can stay and help run the bookshop.

I’ve lived in each one for a couple of weeks, waking up among the books, stocking the shelves, minding the till, washing dishes, sweeping floors, and making dinner for other bookstore residents. It’s thrilling to be surrounded by books and eccentric friends, with late-night literary conversations and daytime adventures and bookstore projects.

Here is a little profile and history of both bookstores, with links for more information.

Shakespeare & Company

The original Shakespeare and Company was run by Sylvia Beach out of her shop 12 rue de l'Odeon. She is famous for publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses out of her shop, and expats like Hemingway and Gertrude Stein were patrons. The next phase in Shakespeare and Company history started when George Whitman, a young American who had tried to walk across South America, came to Paris in the early 50s to study on the GI bill. He called his first bookstore Le Minstral, his nickname for his girlfriend at the time and also the name of the strong wind that blows from the north in France. He later changed the name to Shakespeare and Company, and let writers and 'lost souls' stay in the shop for free from the very first night. Two bookstore mottos that are painted in the bookstore are "Live for Humanity" and "Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise." Today, George is 96 and still lives in an apartment above the bookstore. His daughter Sylvia, who is 28 now, manages and owns the bookstore and organizes a festival every two years. The 2010 festival is taking place this week, from June 18-20, and I will be attending and writing updates from Paris from this blog.

Shakespeare and Company

Literary Festival

George Whitman's Wikipedia page

Documentary: Portrait of a Bookseller as an Old Man

Atlantis Books

Atlantis Books founders Craig and Oliver were studying at Oxford and visiting the village of Oia on the island of Santorini when they decided to start a bookshop. Their friends Tim and Quinn (who met at Shakespeare and Company), Chris, and Maria came along to help, building the bookshelves out of the wood they found around the island. Today, a revolving group of friends runs the bookshop at any moment. The talented bunch is always coming up with new plans—a radio show, a publishing venture, or construction projects in the bookstore. One of the best ideas that I was able to be a part of in 2008 was a Super 8 Film Festival, organized by our French friend Pauline. We projected black and white films onto the white walls of houses in Santorini, while Tim and a local musician accompanied with music.

Atlantis Books

Film Festival

Tim and Quinn's staircase project

Atlantis Books's Flickr page

*posted by Joey on Claire's behalf*

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