Some people call me the Don Quixote of the Latin Quarter because my mind is so far up in the clouds that I can imagine all of us are angels in paradise. And instead of being a bonafide bookseller, I am more like a frustrated novelist.
In today’s world we tend to rush from one thing to another, to occupy ourselves, to scroll through our phones when we have a minute in which we’re asked to stand still.
A mind in the clouds is not something people like very much these days – better to plant oneself on the ground firmly, where it’s safer. Better to be a “bonafide bookseller” than a “frustrated novelist”, and yet the latter describes the average individual more accurately. We are all trying to do something, and I take comfort in a place for misfit toys, a place where we can all try together, where we can all accept and share our creative struggles – celebrate them even.
Paris’s Shakespeare & Company is a space for dreaming, exploring, and getting lost. Sure, it’s a tourist destination, but that is part of its community atmosphere – tourists are people who have felt the calling to travel, but might not know quite how to do it. Shakespeare & Company welcomes them inside its cosy chapter-book home, which is humble and inviting to all. It collects like-minded people, because if you don’t want to dream and read, why would you ever go inside? Its sporadic chairs are nearly always filled with readers, rather than the usual occupants of chairs in shops (think dads in shopping malls). Everyone is invested and involved. Upstairs hosts a writing corner with a typewriter, free for anyone to use in the company of the hundreds of poems and notes visitors have left all around.
Shakespeare & Company reminds us that we are allowed to lose our minds in clouds and in books. I find that travelling is the best way to explore ourselves, and sometimes you don’t have to go anywhere but inside your head to do so.