We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. Click here to find out more. Allow cookies

arrow Register here

Forgotten password?

Hemingway Adventure

Paris, France (third day)

Paris, France 
click to enlarge 
file size
Quintessential Paris - Notre Dame, the Île de la Cité and the smart Right Bank as seen from the windows of George Whitman's less smart, but much more friendly office at Shakespeare and Company. Across the road in the foreground are the metal boxes of the second-hand booksellers, where Hemingway loved to prowl.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureFor George Whitman this would doubtless be the perfect way to go. George’s life is lived around, in, among and on top of books. Pausing only to show me how to turn the light on by pressing a Wittgenstein biography on a shelf beside the door, he shows me into his office. Of course it looks quite unlike any conventional office. It’s lined with books, open books are spread three deep on what might be a desk, if you could see it for books, the walls are covered with posters about books, and there is a bed in which he sleeps when his flat above is occupied by a visiting author.

We talk a little about Paris in the twenties and why it was such an attraction for people like Hemingway. George ticks off the reasons crisply. Prohibition, book-burning and a general repressive attitude to the arts in the United States after the war, and of course, a favourable exchange rate which meant Americans could live quite well on very little. And the traditional qualities of Paris: tolerance for the arts, an audience for the avant-garde, an indulgence of experiment. The scale of the city, big enough to encompass cosmopolitan groups, ideas and influences, small enough to be walkable, and intimate enough for people to keep in touch easily. George believes the ferment of ideas that followed the end of the First World War has died down. The city is no longer the artistic focal point it was then.

It has different priorities now. Most of the young Americans have business degrees. But he has a regular turnover of would-be writers, helping around the shop in return for as many books as they can read and, if they’re lucky, a bed in an alcove in the Children’s Book department.
Paris, France 
click to enlarge 
file size
Shakespeare and Company, Valhalla for book lovers. George Whitman (shown with MP) believes in total literary immersion. The shop's unorthodox services include sleeping accommodation amongst the shelves, a flat above the shop for visiting writers, Sunday tea and Christmas Day opening. Hemingway was a regular visitor to the old Shakespeare and Company and borrowed books that often failed to find their way back.
Choose another day from Hemingway Adventure


  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Paris, France (third day)
  • Country/sea: France
  • Place: Paris
  • Book page no: 82

Bookmarks will keep your place in one or more series. But you'll need to register and/or log in.


  • France
  • Day 1 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 78 
  • Around the World in 80 Days