George Whitman, proprietor of Shakespeare and Company, the famous Parisian bookstore, has passed away December 14, 2011, two days after he celebrated his 98th birthday. George founded the bookstore Le Mistral in 1951 on rue de la Bûcherie which he later renamed Shakespeare and Company in honour of Sylvia Beach, the original owner of Shakespeare and Company which was founded November 17, 1919. Shakespeare and Company is currently located at 8 rue Dupuytren (as of 1964, when the current Le Mistral was renamed).
Sylvia Beach opened the doors of Shakespeare and Company to budding writers as well as to the bibliophiles of the area. During the war, Germany invaded the area, Sylvia was arrested, and her store closed December 1941. Hemingway rescued it from the German forces in 1944 but it remained closed. In Sylvia's honour, George Whitman named his bookstore, carrying on her traditions and adding his own including workshops, lodging for struggling and/or travelling writers.
Last month's issue of "France" magazine featured Shakespeare and Company, namely Sylvia Beach, who founded the original bookstore in Paris. I read this article just a few days ago and then came across a newspaper article announcing the passing of its current proprietor, George Whitman. He sounds like a fabulous supporter of the arts, following and enlarging the footsteps made by Sylvia. May he rest in peace. FYI, his daughter is now running Shakespeare and Company.