george whitman (1913 – 2011)


George Whitman, the owner of Shakespeare and Company, a bookshop that became the center of English-language literary life in Paris and might be the most famous and beloved bookstore in the world, died Dec. 14 in his apartment above the store. He died two days after his 98th birthday. According to the store’s Web site, he had had a stroke two months ago. Mr. Whitman was an American expatriate who found his way to Paris after World War II and never left. He opened the bookstore, directly opposite Notre Dame cathedral, in 1951. In time, Mr. Whitman’s jumbled shop, with its sloping shelves and teetering stacks of books, became something of a cathedral in its own right and a required stop for Americans in Paris. For decades, Mr. Whitman presided over the store with a benign if somewhat mercurial presence, holding poetry readings and providing free room and board to thousands of would-be Hemingways. It has been featured in books, documentaries and the recent Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris.”

more from Matt Schudel at the Washington Post here.