I Miss You Every Day

I really wanted to post something original––I have an okay original essay that I shopped around a bit and might slap up here––but when I came across this anecdote about Sylvia Beach, doyenne of the original Shakespeare & Co., my most special home, I just couldn’t resist sharing it.  Background: this take place during the Nazi occupation of Paris, obvs.

“My German customers were always rare, but of course after I was classified as ‘the enemy,’ they stopped coming altogether––until a last outstanding visit ended the series.  A high-ranking German officer, who had got out of a huge gray military car, stopped to look at a copy of Finnegans Wake.  Then he came in and, speaking perfect English, said he would buy it.  ‘It’s not for sale.’  ‘Why not?’  My last copy, I explained.  I was keeping it.  For whom?  For myself.  He was angry.  He was so interested in Joyce’s work, he said.  Still I was firm.  Out he strode, and I removed Finnegans Wake from the window and put it safely away.

“A fortnight later, the same officer strode into the bookshop.  Where was Finnegans Wake?  I had put it away.  Fairly trembling with rage, he said, ‘We’re coming to confiscate all your goods today.’  ‘All right.’  He drove off.

“I consulted my concierge.  She opened an unoccupied apartment on the third floor.  (My own apartment was on the second floor.)  My friends and I carried all the books and all the photographs upstairs, mostly in clothesbaskets; and all the furniture.  We even removed the electric-light fixtures.  I had a carpenter take down the shelves.  Within two hours, not a single thing was to be seen in the shop, and a house painter had painted out the name, Shakespeare and Company, on the front of 12 rue de l’Odeon.  The date was 1941.  Did the Germans come to confiscate Shakespeare and Company’s goods?  If so, they  never found the shop.

“Eventually, they did come to fetch the proprietor of Shakespeare and Company.”

One Response to “I Miss You Every Day”

  1. Homesick, Part II* | Itinerantdaughter's Blog Says:

    […] the e-mag used this picture (I don’t know where it came from) to illustrate it.  It made me homesick all over […]

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