Shakespeare and Company bookstore Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo taken in March 2010. The window at Shakespeare and Company bookshop... and one of the most exciting days of my life. I brought my book and Chief Grape brought his wine, which was a hit! I learned a little about public speaking—in preparing for the talk—and even more during the talk!


Today, read a story by French Word-A-Day reader Johanna DeMay

Following the Ange, or Angel story—about the passing of one of Paris's most unforgettable characters, I received several letters by readers who shared their experiences in the beloved Shakespeare and Company bookshop. Today, read Johanna DeMay's story. Feel free to share your own stories, here in the comments box.

troquer (troh-kay)

    : to barter; to exchange, swap

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wave file
Quand il n'avait plus d'argent pour acheter des livres, il troquait "ses moins favoris" pour obtenir un nouveau roman. When he had no more money to buy books, he bartered his "least favorite" in order to obtain a new novel.

The Genius of Shakespeare and Company
by Johanna DeMay
After hours of wandering around St. Germain-des-Prés on a chilly April morning, I finally caught my first glimpse of the famous bookstore.  None of the photos I had seen could convey the cattywhumpus quality of the place.  It looked like an illustration from a childrenʼs book.  It drew me in with the relentless tug of an outgoing tide.

The place was packed with people and books, and the people were as fascinating as the books.  A young man arrived to take over behind the desk, relieving the young woman who was off to lunch. The people in line waited while the two exchanged a few words in Franglish.  Then she breezed past me and the young man turned to his customers.

First in line was a short, barrel-chested old man in a well-worn motorcycle jacket. He had a mane of unruly salt-and-pepper hair, a jutting chin and brooding black eyes.  He plunked down a stack of books and 25 Euros.  The bookseller shook his head sadly.

“You know that these books will add up to more than 25 Euros, nʼest-ce pas?” the young man said.

Ecoute, 25 Euros is all I have.”

They looked at each other for a moment.  

“OK, which ones can you live without?”

“NONE of them.”

“OK, which ones can you NOT live without?”

“Your family has always been très gentille with me.  Youʼre not going to change that now, are you?”

Pas du tout.  So help me to choose.”  

The young man picked up the first book, eyebrows raised in question. The customer shook his head firmly and grabbed it. Another book, same result.  Third book.  The customer nodded and the bookseller set it aside.  When he had set aside 2 books he took the rest from the old manʼs hands, wrapped them up and handed over the package.  He picked up the 25 Euros from the counter and the two shook hands.  

I watched as the old man hurried out of the shop with his treasures.  When I looked back, business as usual had resumed, and all the people in line were smiling.

Le Coin Commentaires
Please help me to thank Johanna for her lovely story! Click here to leave a message in the comments box. 
Johanna is a studio potter in New Mexico and a lifelong lover of language.  She is also an avid cyclist and recently toured Provence on two wheels. Check out Johanna's pottery site, here:

 And Talk About A Wonderful Book Cover!...

TimewassoftthereReaders have recommended this book by Jeremy Mercer: Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare and Co.

Wandering through Paris's Left Bank one day, poor and unemployed, Canadian reporter Jeremy Mercer ducked into a little bookstore called Shakespeare & Co. Mercer bought a book, and the staff invited him up for tea. Within weeks, he was living above the store, working for the proprietor, George Whitman, patron saint of the city's down-and-out writers, and immersing himself in the love affairs and low-down watering holes of the shop's makeshift staff. Time Was Soft There is the story of a journey down a literary rabbit hole in the shadow of Notre Dame, to a place where a hidden bohemia still thrives. 

 Click here to buy a copy of Time Was Soft There.


French Vocabulary

n'est-ce pas? = isn't that right?

écoute (écouter: imperative form écoute! (toi)) = listen

très gentille = very kind, very nice

pas du tout = not at all



Johanna DeMay, who wrote today's story, is seen here. She and her husband, Will, pictured, visited me a few years ago.



 Riding past our vineyard, Will signals "au revoir".


Buy "Blossoming" at your local bookstore?
If you have bought a copy of Blossoming in Provence from a local bookseller, please leave me a message here in the comments box. It will be so helpful to know about your experience (was it easy to order? How long did it take to get the book?)

Capture plein écran 21122011 083440Here's a note from Jan:

We have a very charming little bookstore here in Monument called Covered Treasures that I just love. So, taking your advice from one of your emails advising of the availability of Blossoming in Provence, I printed off the information from Amazon and took it to my bookstore for two reasons. First, I prefer to support local businesses when I can. Second, I suggested that the owner might want to take a look at it when the copy I ordered arrives. Her comment when I showed her the book info was "What a beautiful cover!". I told her a little of your history to pique her interest. Who knows what might happen! At the very least, I'll get my book.  Jan in Monument, Colorado

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety