The task of picking the four best literary destinations in Paris, a city whose cobblestones echo with the declamations of the Left Bank and the leftfield, the home truths of Paris’ native scribes and the outsider observations of Anglophone exiles, is gloriously futile. So shall we agree to disagree, mon ami? Here’s my pick of the city’s top literary divertissements to get you arguing over your aperitifs…
The oldest restaurant in Paris, Café Procope was the watering hole of the Comédie française across the street, and a nexus of the Parisian, and American, Enlightenment. Rousseau drowned his theatrical sorrows here, Voltaire risked caffeine poisoning, and Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson convened to debate the uplift of the modern mind and the downfall of the damned British redcoats…
Shakespeare & Company
Founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919 and famously alluded to in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, Shakespeare & Company is Paris’ premier English-language bookshop. This may not be the place to confess you couldn’t get past page 10 of Ulysses – Sylvia played patron not only to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, but also to James Joyce, whose impenetrable masterwork she tirelessly championed.
The Bust of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Aristocrat, aviator, and author of the children’s classic The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has an asteroid and an Andean mountain peak named after him, but his commemorative sculpture in the Invalides Park at the Square Santiago du Chili grants him posterity on a human scale. Buy a copy of The Little Prince for your little prince or princess to enjoy on the flight home (which might not be the best time to tell them the author died in a plane crash…)
20 Rue Jacob
American expat Natalie Clifford Barney hosted a who’s who of twentieth century letters at 20 Rue Jacob – Marcel Proust, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Somerset Maugham and Truman Capote are just a few of the greats who graced her literary symposium. Hemingway was notable by his absence, but grants Barney an acerbic mention in A Moveable Feast.
Andrew Murray 2015