Paris is a city full of culture, with a rich history and recently I was able to visit this beautiful city and now all I want to do is talk about the literary side of this city. No, I didn’t get to go the Jules Verne Restaurant on the Eiffel Tower and I didn’t get to visit Oscar Wilde’s grave but I did see some very interesting sites, thanks to an iPhone app and some exploring.
One of the first places we saw was the apartment of James Joyce. Joyce lived in the apartment during the 1920’s and 30’s and it was here were he penned his masterpiece Ulysses.
Completely by accident we then came across the Panthéon. Originally a church, the Panthéon is full of history, mainly dedicated to the French Revolution. In the Crypt you can find many of French’s great heroes from the French Revolution as well as some of the country’s greatest writers including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas. Completely by accident we also found that the Panthéon is the place where Foucault pendulum is on display. For those who don’t know, this pendulum shares the same name as a conspiracy masterpiece by Umberto Eco.
While the original Shakespeare and Co book store was forced to close its doors when owner Silvia Beach refused to sell the last copy of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake to a Nazi officer, the store did reopen in 1951. The original served as a gathering place for writers such as Ernest Hemingway, William S. Burroughs, and James Joyce in the 1920’s. The reopened Shakespeare and Co strives to cater to writers and readers in the same way as the original, seeing many beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William S. Burroughs again. The Shakespeare and Co bookstore initially published Joyce’s book Ulysses in 1922. While Ulysses and books like Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned around the world, readers can both buy and borrow these books from the Shakespeare and Co book store. This bookshop also appears in the new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris.
The upscale Rue Gît-le-Cœur hotel was once a rundown hotel with no name, popularly known as the Beat hotel. This hotel was in the 1950’s saw many Beat authors including Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Derek Raymond, Harold Norse, Gregory Corso, Sinclair Beiles and even William s. Burroughs who completed his book, Naked Lunch, in the hotel.
Oscar Wilde spent his last days in exile in L’Hôtel room 16. While there is a story going around that Wilde’s last words was ‘Either this wallpaper goes or I will’ many people believe his last words really were “I am dying beyond my means”. Other famous guests include Marlon Brando and writer Jorge Luis Borges.
While there is much more I can talk about in Paris, including the L’Académie française; the French Academy involved in protecting and preserving the French language as well as handing out the Country’s literary awards. I did have to spend some times looking at the sites and art of Paris as well. This is a beautiful city with so much to explore and discover. It is rich in history and culture and I do hope to return there again someday.