Published May 07, 2012
Paris has produced great novelists and poets, inspiring many works of literature. These great novels, poems and memoirs have turned many Parisian locations into literary landmarks. Here are a few of the essential landmarks of literature scattered throughout France's gorgeous capital.
Shakespeare and Company is the name of two independent bookstores in Paris. Sylvia Beach, an expatriate from New Jersey, opened the first in 1919. A few years later, she moved this bookstore to a larger location where Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Ezra Pound convened to discuss literature. In World War II when the Germans occupied Paris, the bookstore was forced to close its doors.
After the war, George Whitman opened another bookstore at 37 Rue Bûcherie with the same name as a tribute to Beach. The second Shakespeare and Company continued the proud tradition established by the first bookstore and served other prominent writers. You can still visit Whitman's Shakespeare and Company where poetry readings are held. A sentence can be found on the wall above a door of the second floor of the shop: “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.” This warm sentiment is emblematic of this literary landmark’s history and atmosphere.
The cafes of the left bank have served many great artists over the years, and no literary tour through Paris should skip Les Deux Magots. This cafe's history of hosting literary figures dates far back, including Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé, Oscar Wilde and Guillaume Apollinaire.
It was one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite cafes when he was developing his craft and working to establish himself as a writer in the 1920s. After World War II, the cafe hosted the literary figureheads of Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Every January since 1933, the cafe has awarded the Deux Magots prize to impressive new works of literature.
Victor Hugo is esteemed by critics to be one of France's greatest writers. His works of poetry and fiction have cemented his place in the French literary circle. You can visit the house where he lived from 1832 to 1848. Here, he wrote much of the 1862 novel Les Misérables. The building has been transformed into a museum that commemorates the productive and fascinating life of this acclaimed artist.