You Can Live for Free in This Historic Paris Bookshop
Book lovers are invited to spend their days surrounded by literature.
Writers looking for a way to surround themselves with literary inspiration can spend their nights encompassed by books at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, a historic shop located in the heart of Paris, France.
The store’s Tumbleweeds program, which started when it opened back in 1951, allows writers to take up residence in hidden beds tucked away in its bookshelves in exchange for helping out an hour or two a day around the bookstore and writing a one-page autobiography.
Writers may also be invited to sleep in the apartment above the store, where they’ll find walls lined with books and fellow writers to engage in conversations with.
Today, some 30,000 intellects have slept within the shop’s corridors, a tradition the owner, George Whitman, started after being invited to stay in fellow travelers' homes during his own adventures in his 20s.
From the day the shop opened, Whitman invited writers and artists to sleep among the shop’s piles of books on beds that would double as benches, leading to the company’s motto: “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise."
Whitman drew inspiration from Sylvia Beach, the founder of the original Shakespeare and Company back in 1919, and the way she transformed her shop into a gathering place for prominent writers that included everyone from Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
So he did the same, inviting artists and writers like James Baldwin and Henry Miller in to create a rich literary environment that resides throughout the shop today.
“I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations,” Whitman once said of the charming space.
Those interested in becoming a Tumbleweed at the shop are invited to email the shop to inquire about how they can soon spend their evenings surrounded by years of history.