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A day in the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookstore

  • Mahir Pradana
    Mahir Pradana

    Lover of pop-culture, mainly fiction books and mainstream movies.

Jakarta | Fri, November 4, 2016 | 03:11 pm
A day in the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookstore Shakespeare and Company, a famous Paris bookstore featured in Before Sunset movie starring Ethan Hawk and Julie Delpy. (Shutterstock/Elena Dijour)

As an avid cinephile and book lover, I have been dreaming about visiting Shakespeare and Company for a long time. The famous Parisbookstore was featured in Before Sunset, one of my favorite movies. 

For that reason, I made Shakespeare and Company a must-visit spot during my two-week summer vacation last July. My wife, Nina, and I spent two days in Paris as a part of our road trip in Europe. It was her first time in Paris, so she was fascinated by tourist spots such as the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe and Musee de Louvre. It was my third time in the French capital, but I never had the chance to visit the bookstore during my previous two visits. 

(Read also: Harry Potter exhibition opens at Singapore Philatelic Museum)

Hence, I was more than excited when we finally arrived in the 5th Arrondisement and saw the bookstore’s iconic green front door. “Sketchy” was my first impression of the bookstore, in a good way, of course. The building itself looked old, with its dominant green exterior. The lettering that read “Shakespeare and Company” above the front door was exactly the way I remembered it from Before Sunset. Some people sat on the wooden benches outside the door, everyone with books in their hands. I wondered how many of them were there because the Richard Linklater’s award-winning movie.

The inside of the bookstore was also antiquated. Some interior from the early 1910s had been left untouched, most notably old chandeliers and an old typewriter on the second floor. Although visitors might feel a last century’s atmosphere, the books sold books are current. 

Certainly, visitors can find a broad range of literature, from Jane Austen to Herman Melville works.  Sometimes, lucky collectors can find rare early print editions of popular titles or even the segmented writings of indie artists. Modern mainstream titles such as EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series also sit on the shop’s shelves. 

I did not want to spend too much time checking on the book collections since I had my own agenda. I remembered that in  Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke’s character was a novelist promoting his book in Europe. During his stay in Paris, he spent a night in Shakespeare and Company, sleeping on a rusty bed on the store’s second floor. 

(Read also: Why 'pop culture' is no less valuable than classic literature)

I climbed the stairs to the second floor, and guess what? The bed was there! There were even several beds with linen-covered mattresses. I wondered whether skimpy backpackers were really allowed to spend the night there. Anyway, from what I observed, the beds, along with chairs and couches, were intended for reading visitors.

After spending an hour there, we had to continue our sightseeing to some other different places. Nevertheless, I felt like I had to buy a memento. I spent 17 euro on a Before Sunset screenplay book. 

I recommend all book lovers to visit the popular bookstore. It is located near the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral, only a three-minute walk from Saint-Michel metro station. 



Mahir Pradana is a lover of pop-culture, mainly fiction books and mainstream movies. He is currently a junior lecturer and researcher of business administration department at Telkom University. Check out his blog mahir-pradana.com and Twitter @maheeer.

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