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Shakespeare and Company's new literary mural

November 20, 2009 | 10:17 am


The English-language bookstore on Paris' left bank, Shakespeare and Company, has been a draw for generations of expatriate writers. That goes for both its first iteration, owned by Sylvia Beach, who was the original publisher of James Joyce's "Ulysses," and the more recent version, opened in 1951 by George Whitman. And those writers are rendered in portraits in a new mural in the shop, on the stairwell between the ground floor and the upstairs browsing/reading room.

On its website, Bomb Magazine has a slideshow of the mural's creation, and an interview with the artist, Badaude (a.k.a. Joanna Walsh). 

I’m somewhere between being a writer [and] an illustrator. I look with envy at other artists’ sketchbooks which are full of pictures and are beautiful objects. Mine tend to be pages of scribbled notes with the odd sketch thrown in....

In drawing the Shakespeare & Company writers -- looking at the way they presented themselves in the reference photos I used -- I became interested in how the image of being, and the story of becoming, a published writer in Paris was so central to the myth [of] their lives; a myth so hugely attractive it frequently became their subject matter ("Quartet," " A Moveable Feast," "Tropic of Cancer"). This is why I chose the quote from "Ulysses" ...  hidden in the wallpaper design of the mural, in which Stephen Dedalus remembers his “Latin Quarter hat,” “puce gloves,” and other “Paris fads” with which he -- and no doubt his hipster-goatee’d creator -- furnished his Paris persona.

Today, the shop is run by George's daughter Sylvia Whitman -- George, now in his 90s, is mostly retired. It continues to offer events with French and American writers, like Jhumpa Lahiri and Mavis Gallant in June and Charles D'Ambrosio later this month.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credit: Paul Morris / Bomb Magazine