He could have been the main character in one of the many books stacked wall to wall in his Parisian book store. George Whitman, 98, lived a large life — even though most of it from 1948 onwards, was spent in a tiny store across the river from the Notre Dame. Whitman, the owner of Shakespeare and Company bookstore, died in his apartment above the store Wednesday morning.
An American born in 1913, Whitman roamed through Latin America, lived with natives in Greenland, and settled in Paris in 1948. There he set up one of the most beloved and iconic book stores, where he invited would-be authors to sleep in the ragged beds among the shelves, and offered bibliophiles quiet nooks to read.
“People come in my door as tumbleweeds drifting on the winds of chance, and I like to think they go out as a light into the universe,” he once said.
Google video has a great documentary filmed in 2003 that takes a look at Whitman’s life, called “Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man.” Watch:
Shakespeare & Co.’s fame made it a tourist destination, and also an indispensable location for filming any movie about Paris. The bookstore has made cameo appearances in several movies, including “Before Sunset,” “Midnight in Paris,” and a short film by Spike Jonze called “To Die By Your Side” (Jonze’s film contains some crude gestures).