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Sylvia Beach (1887 - 1962)
Related: bohemian culture - Paris - the lost generation - British literature - American literature
Sylvia Beach ran a bookstore in Paris until World War II. The store, called Shakespeare and Company, gained fame after it published James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922, as a result of James Joyce's inability to get an edition out in English-speaking countries. [May 2006]
Sylvia Beach born March 14, 1887 - died October 5, 1962 was born Nancy Woodbridge Beach in Bridgeton, New Jersey, and became one of the leading expatriate figures in inter-war Paris.
Her father was a Presbyterian pastor and his work took the family to Paris in 1901. Beach loved Paris, and went to live there permanently in 1916 after war work nursing. With her friend Adrienne Monnier she founded a bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, in November 1919, which became a focus for Americans. The bookshop became famous after it published James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922, as a result of Joyce's inability to get an edition out in English-speaking countries.
The bookshop was in difficulties throughout the depression of the 1930s, and was kept afloat by the generosity of her circle of friends, including Bryher. She was interned during World War II. The shop was symbolically liberated by Ernest Hemingway in person in 1944 but never re-opened.
A new bookshop founded in the 1950s by American W. Whitman (no relations to the poet) was granted permission by Sylvia Beach to use the name "Shakespeare & Company". It had a rocky history. Whitman did neither register nor pay taxes for many years. He was - like many other artists in trouble with Internal Revenue - saved by André Malraux.
In 1956 she wrote a memoir of the inter-war years, titled Shakespeare and Company, which is a must-read for anyone interested in the cultural life in Paris at the time. Contains excellent first-hand observations of D.H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Valery Larbaud, Thornton Wilder, André Gide, Leon-Paul Fargue, George Antheil, Robert McAlmon, Gertrude Stein, Stephen Benet, Aleicester Crowley, John Quinn, Berenice Abbott, Man Ray, and many others. She remained in Paris until her death. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Beach [Aug 2004]
Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties (1983) - Noel Riley Fitch
Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties (1983) - Noel Riley Fitch [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Dan Goffman's chapter on Paris 20th century bohemian culture in Counterculture Through the Ages : From Abraham to Acid House (2004) is partly based on this book.
In 1917, Sylvia Beach walked into a Paris bookshop, where she met Adrienne Monnier, the woman who would become her life companion. In 1919, Beach opened her own English-language bookshop and lending library, Shakespeare and Company, which would become the cynosure of an entire literary movement. Literary expatriates were drawn to her shop, and Ernest Hemingway declared of Sylvia, "No one that I ever knew was nicer to me." But her most celebrated literary efforts are those she made on behalf of her literary idol, James Joyce, undertaking the publication of Ulysses. Noel Riley Fitch uses Beach as the focal point for a fascinating portrait of an artistic community filled with anecdote after anecdote. From the intellectual salons at Natalie Barney's residence--of which "William Carlos Williams would recall only the lesbian women dancing together"--to the seemingly constant presence of Ezra Pound, Fitch's account solidifies the importance of the time and place he so vividly re-creates. --Ron Hogan
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