"books published that I could get from Sylvia Beach's library"

Sylvia Beach, a fellow expatriate from America, opened the doors of Shakespeare and Company at 8 rue Dupuytren in 1919. By May 1921, however, the English language bookshop and lending library moved to the larger site of 12 rue de l'Odéon. It was here on 28th December 1921, with an introductory letter from Sherwood Anderson, that Hemingway would first enter the store. As Michael Reynolds points out, however, 'the letter was unnecessary, for he had only to say that he was in Paris to write fiction to gain Sylvia's sympathy.' (Hemingway the Paris Years, p. 12).

Beach and her store came to play a pivotal role for that often struggling 'Lost Generation' of writers in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s. As well as making a wide variety of books available for small fees -- Hemingway first subscribed to the library for a single month at 12 francs -- and maintaining a constant supply of literary magazines, Sylvia seemed to act in various capacities as go-between, money-lender, property-finder, and problem-solver to all those fortunate enough to make her acquaintance. Undaunted by authority and explicit material -- despite a relatively unassuming appearance, Sylvia herself was hardly a conformist -- in March 1921 she even conceded to undertake the publishing of James Joyce's Ulysses: 'A banned periodical and a banned novel: daring action for a single, American woman trying to make her Paris living selling English books.' (Michael Reynolds, p. 13). Certainly, that particular tome made it onto Ernest's reading list, as did the remainder of Joyce's works, which Shakespeare and Co. kept in great supply. Beach wrote her memoir, Shakespeare and Company, in 1956. Hemingway and Gertrude Stein were among its many contributors. 


Quai des Grands-Augustins Oil on Canvas
Public DomainQuai des Grands-Augustins Oil on Canvas - Credit: James Wilson Morrice

Another promising source of English books for Hemingway was the quai des Grands Augustins. Here, art and novels in various guises -- Aldous Huxley and D.H. Lawrence undoubtedly among them -- were made available by the second-hand booksellers who lined the embankment with their green boxes.

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