The Secret Life of Writers by Tablo

Sylvia Whitman on running Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris, the famous history, how books get you through testing times and the joys of matchmaking people and books.

Episode Summary

Featuring: the beauty and mysticism of Paris, witnessing the fire at Notre Dame, what Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier did for France and publishing, the illustrious writers who’ve been associated with the shop, Sylvia's father George Whitman, taking in strangers and the tumbleweed tradition, the man who stayed seven years in the rare books room, buying book collections across Paris, finding an unpublished novel by Gregory Corso stuffed behind the loo, wonderful reading recommendations and a poem in the morning like a shot of espresso. Sylvia Whitman started running the iconic Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Company in 2004 when she was 23 years old and now co-manages it with her partner David Delannet. She took up the reins from her father, George Whitman, who founded the bookshop in 1951. Sylvia breathed freshness, energy and new life into the shop while also continuing its most loved traditions such as having writers, called tumbleweeds sleeping amongst the shelves. She’s had many creative ventures over the years – she’s launched a festival, opened a café, grown the bookshop and created a contest for unpublished novellas – but the beating heart of everything is, of course, the beautiful bookshop itself. Since it first opened it has been a haven for everyone who’s walked through its doors. There’s been many descriptions of it over the years: Henry Miller called it ‘a wonderland of books’, James Baldwin described it as ‘The old curiosity shop’ and Anaïs Nin wrote it was ‘a house of gentle warmth, with walls of books and tea ceremonies’.