In 1919 Sylvia Beach "opened an American bookshop in Paris called Shakespeare and Company. During the following two decades it became practically a clearing house for writers of this vital post-1918 period".-San Francisco Chronicle. "[Miss Beach's] reminiscences are literally an index of everybody in the twenties, and she knew them all".-Janet ...
In 1919 Sylvia Beach "opened an American bookshop in Paris called Shakespeare and Company. During the following two decades it became practically a clearing house for writers of this vital post-1918 period".-San Francisco Chronicle. "[Miss Beach's] reminiscences are literally an index of everybody in the twenties, and she knew them all".-Janet Flanner, New Yorker. Introduction by James Laughlin.
Sylvia Beach, publisher of James Joyce's 'Ulysses' and soft touch when he needed help, proprietor of the bookshop Shakespeare and Company, and friend to all the important writers in Paris in the 20's, 30's, 40's, writes an important account of literary Paris in these years. Her style is 'chatty', personal and easy to enjoy, especially some of the anecdotes about these important writers, how Alice B. Toklas kept wives away from conversations between Gertrude Stein and a literary visitor, such as the first visit by Sherwood Anderson and his wife, Tennessee: "...Tennessee......seated herself on a table ready to take part in the conversation, and resisted when Alice offered to show her something on the other side of the sitting room. But Tennessee never succeeded in hearing a word of what they were saying......Curiously, it was only applied to wives; non-wives were admitted to Gertrude's conversation."
Writers seems to flock to Shakespeare and Company, sometimes sent by her friend, Adrienne Monnier (who had a french bookshop opposite in Rue de L'Odeon), writers such as Hemingway, (unpublished when he first came), Andre Gide, Thornton Wilder, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Ford Maddox Ford, the poet H.D., and of course, James Joyce who took up much of Beach's time and energy, using her as a sort of mail box, a bank when short of funds, a literary agent, friend and publisher. At times he seemed to have 'used' her in the bad sense of the word, almost bankrupting her due to her generosity of giving her last centime whilst he dined at the best restaurants as though flush in funds.
The penultimate chapter dealing the the Nazi occupation is too short, nail-biting as it is, a German officer arriving to buy Finnegin's Wake, Beach refusing to sell, the threat of confiscation of all goods and Shakespeare and Company literally disappearing in two hours!
This wonderful book, so richly steeped in the particularity that was literary Paris at that time, so very interesting to those who love books, is a wonderful find: it's a gem.
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