Nov 23, 2014

08:08 Paris Local Time
PARIS ON MY MIND: Adieu George

David Applefield with George Whitman

Adieu George!

by David Applefield

PARIS City of Light, definitely. But also City of Literary Ambitions.

There are few achievements in life more highly sought-after or gratifying than publishing a novel. Literary Paris, expat Paris, the Paris of Hemingway, Joyce, Stein, Henry Miller, James Baldwin... continues to excite the literary minded, the wordsmith dreaming of greatness, the tourist whose heart flutters in the presence of historical authenticity

Yesterday, December 14, 2011, Expat Paris, lost its greatest bookman, George Whitman, founder and iconic skipper of the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop at 37 rue de la Bucherie, in the Fifth Arrondissement, en face de Notre Dame cathedral.

George Whitman died in his bed on the third flood above the bookstore he belovedly referred to as the Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, a quote from Yeats.

He had turned 98 on Monday. We all knew he would die one day, but some of us had our doubts. He was tough and feisty and strong-willed .

At a time when the continued life of independent literary bookshops is perilously at risk, the death of George Whitman comes as a strong reminder of just how indebted we are as thinking and feeling humans to the world of books. Ideas. Good stories. Poetry. The life of the imagination. The invention of brilliant minds. And the beauty and power of language.

Losing George Whitman gives us pause. He was an originale. And the shop, founded in 1951, originally as Le Mistral, was the moral equivalent of the "clean well-lighted place" in Hemingway´s 1926 short story of the same name which celebrates human dignity.

Copyright: ©David Applefield, 2014. Legal Information
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