I feel more at home in the maze of bookshelves, antique artifacts and reading nooks of the Shakespeare and Company book shop than I have in a long time. Wandering the world can lead to an odd number of places where one feels at home. I seek out bookshops around the world for this very reason, and this particular one is perhaps my favorite. I was drawn here at first by the name, I grew up with the words and stories of Shakespeare and learned to love his works. After a little research I discovered the rich history of the store, previously frequented by the likes of Ezra Pound and Ernst Hemingway. What’s more, the motto of the shop “Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise,” reflects far more eloquently than I could ever express, what I have learnt in these months of wandering.
There is a feeling of stillness and wonder in these rooms. Walking in the place of so many tortured, beautiful souls. Reading and rereading the words they put to print in an attempt to express themselves. The shop is small and cluttered, just the way it should be. Each step you take leads you to another marvelous discovery of some famous or stunning piece of literature.
I have such a feeling of peace and wholeness, while sitting upstairs reading Oscar Wilde and gazing out the window at the little alleyway the shop opens onto, full of trees and artists and bikes. A few metres away someone sits at the piano and plays a snippet of Mozart, slightly disturbing the cat dozing in the flowerpot on the windowsill. This place creates such a wonderful calm, and demands an appreciation of the beauty in words and language. It’s something I myself, clearly, hold very dear to heart. Language has a power many underestimate or dismiss completely. But I feel that places where the power of words is fostered and cherished have an immense power.
Books have changed my life; from J.K.Rolling as a child, Margaret Atwood in high school to Maya Angelou, Oscar Wilde and Yeats as a young adult. Every voice, every character, author and story has molded and shaped the way I view the world. These people have power, it is quiet and hidden, but truly immense. Thus, this little store, packed from floor to ceiling with novels, poetry and plays, holds a very special place in my little world.