Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Be not inhospitable to strangers / Lest they be angels in disguise."

On Wednesday 14th December, 2011, George Whitman died peacefully at home in the apartment above his bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, in Paris. George suffered a stroke two months ago, but showed incredible strength and determination up to the end, continpany of his daughter, Sylvia, his friends and his cat and dog.  He died two days after his 98th birthday.
Born on Dec. 12, 1913, in East Orange, New Jersey, George moved to Paris in 1948 and opened his bookshop Le Mistral, later renamed Shakespeare and Company, in 1951.  Packed wall-to-wall with books and beds for roaming writers, the store quickly grew to be a haven for book lovers and authors while George became an unusual Paris literary institution. In 2006 he was awarded the Officier des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture for his lifelong contribution to the arts.
After a life entirely dedicated to books, authors and readers, George will be sorely missed by all his loved ones and by bibliophiles around the world who have read, written and stayed in his bookshop for over 60 years. Nicknamed the Don Quixote of the Latin Quarter, George will be remembered for his free spirit, his eccentricity and his generosity  —  all three summarised in the Yeats verses written on the walls of his open, much-visited library : "Be not inhospitable to strangers / Lest they be angels in disguise." 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found this post. I visited Shakespeare and Co. as a university student in Scotland several years ago. I was on Easter holiday, found myself wandering Europe, wandering Paris, and discovered this book shop. Picked up a copy of Anne of Green Gables there, from the outside books stand, which I still have. I found this post while searching the quote for a snow angel photo that I took. It is also found in Hebrews in the Bible. Thank you for sharing the legacy of an amazing man.