What The Lost Generation Read

Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Co Paris 1936

Shakespeare and Company is a legendary bookstore located in the heart of Paris. It was founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919 and during the 1920s and 1930s, was the hub of a generation of legendary “expatriate” writers in Paris, known as “The Lost Generation”. This generation was depicted in the fictional Woody Allen movie “Midnight In Paris”. Shakespeare and Company came to prominence for this set of writers because she published James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in 1922.

Similar to other recent efforts from major museums around the world, Princeton University is taking the full collection of Beach’s Papers and digitizing them, opening up a fascinating window into the operations of Shakespeare and Company that includes the membership rolls of Shakespeare’s lending library. These records detail the books and literature that some of the most legendary authors themselves borrowed from the this iconic bookstore.

Through a large-scale digitization project of the Sylvia Beach papers at Princeton, the Shakespeare and Company Project will “recreate the world of the Lost Generation. The Project details what members of the lending library read and where they lived, and how expatriate life changed between the end of World War I and the German Occupation of France.” During the thirties, Beach began to cater more to French-speaking intellectuals. Among later logbooks we’ll find the names Aimé Césaire, Jacques Lacan, and Simone de Beauvoir. Beach closed the store for good in 1941, the story goes, rather than sell a Nazi officer a copy of Finnegans Wake.

Princeton’s “trove of materials reveals, among other things,” writes Lithub, “the reading preferences of some of the 20th century’s most famous writers,” it’s true. But not only are there many famous names; the library logs also record “less famous but no less interesting figures, too, from a respected French physicist to the woman who started the musicology program at the University of California.” Shakespeare and Company became the place to go for thousands of French and expat patrons in Paris during some of the city’s most legendarily literary years.

Josh Jones, Open Culture

This is such a unique window into the minds of some of the most influential people of that era (and history) and the types of literary work that influenced them. It is as well a view into a diverse cross section of individuals from around the world who were members of the Shakespeare Lending Library, many whom were not as famous. Not only can you see what books and literature they checked out of Shakespeare, but it also details where the thousands of members lived over the years that they were part of the Lending Library membership rolls.

Hemingway with Sylvia Beach (to his right). Photo: Collection Lausat/Keyston-France/Cam

For example, the Ernest Hemingway profile page details where he lived in Paris (three places including 6 rue Férou, 113 rue Notre Dame de Champs, and 69 rue Froidevaux) as well where he lived as Spain, Switzerland and Cuba. It details when he was a member (off and on between 1921 and 1938). Then, we get to the good stuff, as it also details what books Hemingway checked out, and we have to assume, he read. They include works by William Butler Yeats, Gertrude Stein, Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, and Eugene O’Neill to name a few. He even bought some of his own work from Shakespeare, which somehow seems ‘on brand’.

Hemingway’s “Lending Library” card from 1926-27

Other famous folks that were members include James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Just a tantalizing snapshot into one of the most interesting periods of time in Paris and the world!

Ferrari Racing Through Paris

https://youtu.be/adOnd22_ehk

With all the great cities around the world looking like ghost towns these days due to the CoronaVirus pandemic, thought it would be a good time to revisit arguably the first epic ‘street racer’ video of all time – Claude Lelouch’s “Rendezvous”. While the video has gained legendary status over the years, not all felt so enamored with what he did:

Due to the illegal nature that had to be undertaken in order for the movie to be filmed, the director Claude Lelouch was arrested upon the first screening

What I found great about this classic is being able to see how Paris looked in the mid 1970s – and especially the vintage 1970s cars on the streets – while at the same time being able to clearly recognize the classic sites and venues that the city has to offer. It’s only 10 minutes long and being able to ride shotgun at high speed through the relatively empty streets of Paris still gets the blood pumping.

In 2012, filmmaker Alex Roy made a short video analyzing and breaking down Lelouch’s classic video:

The Pink Panther Heists

The venerable Harry Winston’s in Paris was robbed earlier this month. The robbers are said to be part of a worldwide network, nicknamed The Pink Panthers in honor of the movie and character of the same name:

As the second hand ticked, four men “three disguised as women with long blond tresses, sunglasses and winter scarves” stood in front of an intercom and demurely requested to enter the fabled Harry Winston jewelry store on Avenue Montaigne. It was just before closing time on a chilly evening along this golden triangle of boutiques that includes Dior, Chanel and Gucci, the ornate facades and trees resplendent with Christmas lights.

Buzzed in, the men rolled a small valise on wheels into the hushed inner refuge. Then they pulled out a hand grenade and a .357 Magnum. As Parisians strolled unawares past the store’s wrought-iron gates, the robbers smashed display cases and barked out orders and the names of some of the Harry Winston employees. They spoke French with strong Slavic accents.

There was no time for the police from a nearby station in the luxury district to rush over. In less than 15 minutes the diamond thieves were gone, roaring away in a waiting car through the 5:30 p.m. twilight on Dec. 4 with sacks of emeralds, rubies and chunky diamonds the size of tiny bird eggs valued at more than 80 million euros, or $105 million.

The robbers may not have been as suave as celluloid jewels thieves with the charm of David Niven (a k a the debonair phantom bandit, Sir Charles Litton) but the meticulous planning, swift execution and creative style raised suspicion that the Harry Winston heist was the handiwork of a loose global network of battle-hardened, ex-soldiers and their relatives from the former Yugoslavia.

Investigators, marveling at the gang’s ingenuity, have dubbed this unlikely network the Pink Panthers. The parallels between film and reality are perhaps best summed up in zee accent and words of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, himself from the original 1963 “The Pink Panther”.

Its stories like these that just fascinate me…real life events that parallel scenes from the big screen. The planning, ingenuity, and innovation that these crooks demonstrate is nothing short of impressive.