Hemingway never slept here
Antiquarian books at Shakespeare & Co., a Paris literary institution.
Stairs leading to more books and rooms with beds for the "tumbleweed" young writers who've stayed at Shakespeare & Co. Plastic tarpulin covers the ceiling, as pieces of plaster are literally falling on people's heads. The store's general rundown look is part of its appeal to visitors.
An excerpt from John Affleck's article at Literary Traveler:
In 1951, thirty years after Sylvia Beach opened Shakespeare and Company, George Whitman opened Le Mistral, an English language bookshop at 37, rue de la Boucherie, on the Left Bank just across the Seine from Notre Dame. He'd bought the prime location with an inheritance and filled it with books he'd acquired with G.I. book vouchers he'd bummed from non-literary troops, amassing an enviable collection of first editions from Lost Generation writers.
Like Sylvia, he used the second floor as a library and venue for literary gatherings, and it quickly filled with the new generation of ex-pat writers. A different group, to be sure; more fragmented, and more daring. When Ginsberg and the Beats arrived in Paris in the late 50s they read their latest works on the street outside the shop: Corso read his poems, Ginsberg read Howl and, most shocking, Burroughs read from Naked Lunch. At the other extreme, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who would go on to open the sister City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, slaved away at his doctoral thesis on T.S. Eliot's poetry, always finding refuge at 37, rue de la Boucherie.
Following Sylvia Beach's death in 1962, George renamed his bookshop Shakespeare and Company in her honor, though almost certainly without her permission. And while there was no shortage of literary aspirants passing through, George still sought his Hemingway and Joyce. To help catch them, he started the "Tumbleweed Hotel;" he installed sleeping berths in the library where down-on-their-luck young writers might stay, provided they "read a book a day" and worked an hour around the shop.
More established writers could stay upstairs in the Writer's Room, boasting three walls packed with rare volumes and considerably more comfortable beds. George estimates 10,000 travelers have stayed for at least a night; each visitor must leave a short autobiography and a photo. Many of these photos adorn the walls of the Writer's Room: Lawrence Durrell, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, alongside classic shots of Hemingway and Joyce and a seemingly omnipresent Sylvia Beach.
Never married, in his sixties George fathered his only daughter, and proved that the shop's new name was more than just a publicity stunt by naming the girl Sylvia Beach Whitman. Indeed, it is easy to assume, as many tourists do, that it is the same bookshop frequented by Hemingway and Joyce and George does little to correct them. To the contrary, he foments the rumors that he is the illegitimate grandson of Walt Whitman.
While his own legacy may remain very much in Sylvia's shadow, George's tenure as Paris' literary host is now in its fourth decade, having weathered the Beats, the 1968 student riots, the hippies and numerous tax audits by the French authorities (George doesn't accept credit cards; all purchases are cash only). And while he still searches for literary heirs, the ghosts of the fathers have found themselves very much at home at the new Shakespeare and Company. It remains, in the spirit of its predecessor, the best bookshop around.