Shakespeare & Company

The most cramped, interesting, and full-of-famous-history used bookstore in the world:

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The owner of the shop for the last 60 years, George Whitman, posted a hand-scrawled note on the storefront that included this:

“I may disappear leaving behind me no worldly possessions—just a few old socks and love letters, and my windows overlooking Notre Dame for all of you to enjoy, and my little Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart whose motto is ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.’ I may disappear leaving no forwarding address, but for all you know I may still be walking among you on my vagabond journey around the world.”

I read it, knowing not whether George was even still alive. I was ignorant of this particular pocket of Latin Quarter history, having missed the page in my guidebook. I’d seen an old man with stringy white hair talking to people on the sidewalk a few minutes before. He wore pyjamas and slippers and I’d joked to Tay, that guy’s either crazy or famous. We didn’t realize who it was until she’d secretly snatched my journal to get a Shakespeare & Co. stamp in it, and unknowingly met the man himself, pushing 90, and still walking among us.

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