I will tell the story of a man who burns his hair with a candle because he is lazy to go to the barber, to establish the world’s most inspiring bookstore.
Maybe those who are on their way to Paris know. Right across the Notre Dame Cathedral is a bookstore by the River Seine. This is a place that sells English books with two-storey, tiny, narrow, squeaking wooden stairs that form queues stretching in front of the street from time to time.
On the top floor of this bookstore, you’ll see beds between shelves filled with old books. Next to a bed, an old piano with a play me on it, an antique typewriter stands on the bedside of another bed. A room with two beds opens onto Paris city view. These beds are not for ornamental purposes, they are for hosting people who are passionate about writing for free.
This is a tradition that the bookshop opened in 1951 has been alive for years.
You will spend a few hours working in the bookstore for a night spent reading and writing. And when you leave, you write your one-page autobiography and add your own to the autobiography of thousands of people who have stayed there so far.
As George Whitman, who founded the bookstore, dictated, nearly thirty thousand people, including well-known authors such as Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and Ray Bradbury, have spent the night in those beds. Some found their inspiration there, and some started writing the first pages of the book right there.
He said George Whitman: “Don’t be intolerant to strangers. They may be disguised angels. ”
With this motto of life, Whitman had opened his door to every foreigner. So much so that he would never lock the shop door so that those who came could not enter without hesitation.
George Whitman, who was born in 1913 in a middle-class family in America, was first in Paris when he was 33 years old. After World War I came to do research at Sorbonne University. He started living in a cheap, shabby hotel room and fell in love with Paris.
He described Paris as “the people’s poet, the city where life is a poem”.
While earning his life by giving English lessons, he also created a book archive for himself. He borrowed and sold these books.
By the time he was 38, he opened up that little shop of his dreams in the place where the bookstore is now, using some money from his family. In his letter to his family, he said, “I think I have finally found a place where I can now safely look at all the ugliness and beauty of the world.”
Le Mistral would be named after this bookseller he opened.
On the other hand, in the 1920s and 30s before Whitman, again in Paris; There was a bookshop called Shakespeare and Company, which was frequented by writers such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and founded by the American Sylvia Beach. Sylvia Beach had to close this place during the Nazi occupation.
George Whitman wanted to keep Sylvia Beach’s intellectual role in society and the name of his bookstore. It changed the name of the bookstore in 1964, and Shakespeare and Company came to life again with George Whitman years later.
Anyone who knew George Whitman described him as the man who lived with books. He was someone whose only purpose in life was to expand his bookstore a little more, he did not care about his clothes, did not value money at all, and cut his hair with a candle because he did not want to go to the barber. Someone who is strange, charismatic, hospitable, sometimes moody and prefers to be indifferent to everything.
For example, George Whitman was known to be very fond of inviting his acquaintances (or unfamiliar) to dinner. But he was an extraordinary and incomprehensible personality to invite everyone and then sit in a corner and read a book.
Or he wanted foreigners coming to the shop to watch over there for a while. He was going out of the shop at that time and reading a book in a corner. Sometimes he left his shop to them because he trusted them and sometimes he just wondered what could happen.
After a while, Whitman started to live on the third floor of the building where he opened his bookstore. The man who lived with the books really lived with books as if he gave him the title. The three walls of the bedroom were filled with all the works of Freud and Jung, biographies, poems, novels, philosophy books. Under his pillow, he also kept a lot of detective novels.
Died two days after his 98th birthday in 2011, Whitman left a valuable legacy above all: Shakespeare and Company.
Appearing for a few minutes in the films Midnight in Paris and Before Sunset, this 38-year-old daughter and her daughter’s husband are living together.
We also walk through the narrow corridors of the bookstore, which feels like walking in the library of a close friend, and we absorb the fragrance of the book.
The stairs squeak like the first day. The people who are passionate about writing and reading are still sleeping upstairs. Someone is sitting at the piano, playing a song he loves. In this magical environment, you feel like a “foreigner” and not a member of a huge family that comes together with the love of reading and writing.
While standing in front of this 17th century building, watching the tree blooming its pink flowers in spring, you have the following question:
Can there be a more valuable legacy that a person can leave to humanity?
and you want to live life just like George Whitman: A little careless, a little extraordinary, sometimes moody and hiding books under his pillow.
Voltaire, who also writes in the bags of the bookshop, has a saying: “Let it go, read and dance; these two will never harm the world. ”