Wednesday, April 18, 2012


If Sylvia Beach did not invent “The English Bookshop” in Paris when she opened SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY at 8, rue Dupuytren in the 1920s, the reputation that her shop would acquire during its lifetime would bestow that honor on Miss Beach.  SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY became “home” to the expatriates who flocked to Paris in the 1920s.

James Joyce and Sylvia Beach at 8, rue Dupuytren

Rue Dupuytren was a narrow street that ran between Rue Monsieur le Prince and Rue de l’Ecole de Médecine.  The shop moved in the summer of 1921 to larger quarters at 12, rue de l’Odéon, a much nicer address.  The location at 8, rue Dupuytren was vacant in the early 1960s.

SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY, like the mythical bird Phoenix, was reborn in Paris in the 1950s.  The following obituaries fill in some of the details:

Founder of famed Paris English bookshop dies
Published: 14 Dec 2011 13:28 GMT+1
The Local
France’s News in English
George Whitman, the founder of the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris – a famed writers' refuge and English-language literary hub in the French capital – died Wednesday aged 98, the shop said.

"George Whitman died peacefully at home in the apartment above his bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, in Paris," the shop announced on its Facebook page.
"George suffered a stroke two months ago, but showed incredible strength and determination up to the end, continuing to read every day in the company of his daughter, Sylvia, his friends and his cat and dog," it said.
Across from the Notre Dame Cathedral in the Latin Quarter, Shakespeare and Company was known to generations of expatriates in Paris as a haunt of aspiring writers, who would work in the shop and sleep in the stacks after hours.
Whitman founded the shop in 1951, naming it after the previous Shakespeare and Company owned by Sylvia Beach, which in the 1920s was a gathering place for writers including Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce.
"After a life entirely dedicated to books, authors and readers, George will be sorely missed by all his loved ones and by bibliophiles around the world who have read, written and stayed in his bookshop for over 60 years," the shop said.

The Independent. London, January 10 or 11, 1991.
In the byways of literature and art Norman Rubington was a seminal figure. He went to Paris in the early 1950s to paint and became involved with the group of expatriate American (and a few British) figures that included Christopher Logue, Dan Jones, Alexander Trocchi, William Burroughs, Iris Owens, Richard Seaver, who edited the Paris Review, Merlin and other periodicals - and subliminally Samuel Beckett, whose work some of them espoused. This group was eventually gathered up by Maurice Girodias to advise, edit and write for his Olympic Press that published both erotica and literature, and where possible a combination of the two, in the puritanical days before the Obscene Publication Act 1959 in the UK made literary merit a sufficient counter-balance to allow publication of sexually explicit material.
A painter of considerable prestige and some commercial success, Rubington was commissioned by Girodias to write pornographic novels for him, which he did under the penname of Akbar del Piombo. These were enormously successful with GIs visiting Paris and English readers seeking titillation. He also wrote erotic verse under the same name and illustrated many of these books. Often using scenes in Arab harems and exaggerated, often extremely funny, orgy scenes, his work was characterised by much tongue-in-cheek humour and definite literary quality far beyond the demands of the publisher. There was also a strong streak of social and political satire in his work. Subjects he used included the drug scene, war, the art world and society generally.
Rubington studied art at Yale before the war and in Paris after it. In the army during the war he worked in military intelligence as mapmaker and interpreter of aerial photographs. He was also a war artist.
Rubington won the prestigious Prix de Rome as a painter and subsequently spent three years in that city. Other prizes and fellowships followed, including the Guggenheim and Tiffany Awards and the Religous Arts Award, the latter because of the religous painting he did for churches, including a crucifixion for the Grace Cathedral of San Francisco.
He was about to be honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters when he died. His work, close to Surrealism and mostly representational, is associated with American Expressionism of which he was an early exponent. It is usually infused with humor and an eye for the erotic, often including portraits of personalities such as Orson Wells or others he wished to characture. His work hangs in major American museums' collections.
His novels, mostly published in the Fifties and the early Sixties, included Who Pushed Paula?, Cosimo's Wife, Skirts, The Traveller's Companion, and The Fetish Crowd, all written as Akbar del Piombo. Under his own name he published, also with Olympia Press, the satirical collage novels Fuzz Against Junk and The Hero Maker using the same collage technique as Max Ernst in Une semaine de bonte. He was associated with various groups of painters in both France and the U.S. and took part in many group shows. His own one-man exhibitions were principally in Paris, Boston and San Fransisco. In addition he illustrated many books and experimental films, some of them leading to the work of Monty Python, whose work is similar. His book Twelve Painters, Twelve Poets was a successful attempt to bring the arts together.
In the Fifties he became a habitue of Paris' best bookshops for literary English Books, Gaite Froge's English Bookshop on the Rue de Seine,, which had a gallery in the basement, often featuring Rubington's paintings. When Rubington finally decided to return to America in the early 1970s, Gaite Froge sold her bookshop to follow him, later tried to recover it, failed and eventually became a freelance editor in New York, where she died three years ago. As her bookshop was the logical successor to Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Co, there are various projects to produce as book about this central venue of this Anglo-American centre for the avante-garde of the late Fifties and Sixties.
Rubington was one of the founders of the Olympia list and remained a loyal friend to Girodias until he died last summer. I last saw him at a memorial dinner for Girodias in New York shortly after. A gentle, kind man. he was certainly one of the characters who held the expatriate group together during the period which we think of as the heyday of existentialist Paris. He died shortly after midnight on New Year's Eve from a heart attack when calling on Girodias's widow with a bottle of rum to help her cold.
John Calder
Norman Rubington, artist and writer, born New Haven (sic) Connecticut 20 June 1921, died New York 1 January 1991.

POINTS and other small literary journals that were active in Paris in the late 1940s and early 1950s depended on the English bookshops to carry their journals.  The page below from an early issue of The Paris Review lists the popular bookshops, restaurants and cafes in the Latin Quarter where many of these small publishers located their offices.

LIBRAIRIE MISTRAL at 37, rue de la Bûcherie and ENGLISH BOOKSHOP at 42, rue de Seine were known to be reliable sources for the current issue of POINTS and other small literary journals.

LE TOURNON  at 18, rue de Tournon was a popular watering hole for artists and writers.  The photo below catches a gathering of friends who were active in the small journal community in the early 1950s.

Writers and editors from the Paris Review and Merlin, outside the Cafe de Tournon, 1953.
Front row, from left: Wilma Howard, Jane Lougee, Muffie Wainhouse, Jean Garrigue.
Second Row: Christopher Logue, Niccolo Tucci (in the white raincoat), unknown woman, Peter Huyn, Alfred Chester, Austryn Wainhouse.
Third Row; Richard Seaver (over Logue's shoulder), Evan S. Connell, Michel van der Plats, James Broughton, William Gardner Smith, Harold Witt.
Back row: Eugene Walter, George Plimpton (in hat), William Pene du Bois.
(Photo © Otto van Noppen)

Sindbad Vail would note in his editor’s introduction to POINTS 15 that MERLIN had emerged on the literary scene (two issues) and that THE PARIS REVIEW was to be launched shortly.  The back pages of POINTS 15 would carry ads for both journals.

Austryn Wainhouse had pieces published in POINTS 11/12 and would also have a short story published in POINTS 18. Christopher Logue would have works published in POINTS 17 and 19. William Pene du Bois’ wife, Jane, was a regular contributor to the book review section of POINTS. Richard Seaver was an early champion of Samuel Beckett and would also have his critique of Ernest Hemingway published in POINTS !8.  Later in his career he would become an editor at Grove Press in New York where he published many of the authors he cultivated in Paris during the 1950s including Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet and Eugene Ionesco.  The one person missing from the above photo is Alexander Trocchi who was the co-editor of MERLIN who would also have his short stories published in POINTS 17 and 19.


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