Shakespeare & Company’s Unconquerable Sylvia Beach

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Sylvia Beach, center, hangin’ with James Joyce and Adrienne Monnier, via Wikimedia

Sylvia Beach was a helluva woman. An American expatriated to Paris at the turn of the century, Beach was a lesbian, a lover of books and authors, and most importantly, the proprietor of the original Shakespeare & Company. Though the bookstore changed locations and almost went out of business a few times, the local authors whom Beach supported (including James Joyce, whose Ulysses Beach originally published) rallied around the store to not only promote and save the business, but also make it a hot spot for author readings and signings. Though the original shop closed during WWII, George Whitman later named his bookstore Shakespeare & Company (not to mention naming his daughter Sylvia), after Beach’s incomparable contribution to the Paris literary scene.

Now Sylvia Beach is getting her due. With both a new novel (Chasing Sylvia Beach) and a film (“Left Bank Bookseller”) about the lady, Sylvia Beach’s name is being exposed to a whole new generation of book lovers and Paris dreamers alike. And as well it should: Sylvia Beach’s bookstore was also a lending library and she kept Ernest Hemingway and other writers of the Lost Generation well-stocked in literature, imagination and inspiration. Find the store’s original location on our Hemingway Map and learn more about her life in the recent novel and the 2012 film.

This post originally appeared on Paris Cheapskate.