Thursday, December 22, 2011

Three Books and a Funeral

Three of George Whitman's favourite books were offered to mourners, as they filed out from the chapel, after his service.

The Idiot, Don Quixote and Leaves of Grass.

A man, who clearly loved literature and shared it with so many.   He no doubt,  would have wanted it this way, a parting gift.

By the time I arrived, there was standing room only.  Of course Jim Haynes was there and Jeanette Winterson made for a great introduction.

As we entered the chapel, each of us was presented with a long stemmed, white rose.

Later,  we placed them upon his coffin.

A beautiful service, where family and friends spoke in Mr Whitman's honour. Mentioning the 'tumbleweeds' as they were known.  Struggling writers who were offered free accommodation in his rooms above Shakespeare and Company, the iconic bookstore in Paris.

When his beautiful daughter, Syliva, reminisced, she painted a picture of the man, her father, bookseller, bohemian, traveller of the world and lover of literature.  One could not mention him, without including Shakespeare and Company in the same sentence, it was his life.

He devoured books and encouraged as many as he could, to do so also, sharing his passion with all he came into contact with.

One anecdote Sylvia presented,  filled the chapel with laughter.

A shopper entered the store, George Whitman asked the customer, if he could look after the store for 10 minutes or so and showed him where the cash box was.

George returned 8 hours later!

It is only fitting, his final resting place,  a man whose life was words, books and literature, is amongst some of the greats.  Oscar Wilde, Balzac and Colette, to name a few, at Pere Lachaise.

Before we left the chapel,  everyone joined in, as we sang - You Are My Sunshine.

After the service, I decided I would visit Oscar Wilde's grave.

I couldn't find it.   Just as I was about to give up, an attendant arrived in a vehicle, I asked him if I was heading in the right direction

20 kilometres I understood, I know the cemterary is big, it was getting cold and dark.  I have been lost here before, that could not be possible.  Paris in only 10 kilometres long.

My shoulders dropped and he noticed my disappointment.  Get in the car he said and I was chauffeur driven around the avenues of Pere Laichase Cemetery.  Once again surprised with the kindness and generosity of the French.

Delivered directly in front on Oscar Wilde's lipstick kissed grave.

The council has had to put a glass barrier in front of the grave, in an effort to protect it with so many lipstick kisses, placed upon his tomb.  Now fans must kiss the glass!

As I slowly wandered out of the cemetery, a Shakespeare and Company bag, swinging on my arm with a copy of one of George Whitman's favourite books, The Idiot,  I had a gentle smile on my face.

I stood on the platform, reading the opening pages, my connecting stop was Arts & Metiers metro stop.

I have always wanted to stop at this beautiful station and photograph it but I was always in a hurry to get somewhere.

Today, I decided, life is too short.  I sat at Arts et Metiers, train after train, trying to get that picture, I have always wanted to.  Next time I will need a tripod!


At December 25, 2011 at 6:56 AM , Anonymous Amy said...

What an amazing day, so great to be in Paris for such a special event.

At December 26, 2011 at 12:34 AM , Blogger Seamas said...

nice pix Adele. Here's some more on Oscar:

At December 26, 2011 at 1:42 AM , Blogger Paris Adele said...

thanks Seamas for that, very well done, congratulations and thanks for sending me the link. I am sure others will watch also.

At December 26, 2011 at 1:44 AM , Blogger Paris Adele said...

It was Amy - a beautiful service, so glad I could be here for it

At March 5, 2012 at 7:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

just read this sad news today had come across the shop by pure chance france is a place of dreams as ayoung dreamer i was hitchiker in the 80s going to a political rally lutte ouvtirre with 6 other waifs and strays i convince to come with me to the event they all had agood time and learnt something i then had to come home so i thought id sight see hunting for pere lachaise cemetary and james morrison and perhaps oscar wildestomb i bombed out and with no passport had to doge home onthe train from the ferry to london but didnt despair that that i couldnt find .. jump forward to 2010 i and my partner marie visited paris as a bunch of proper tourist money in sky rocket no need to cadge steal bunk or hitch, getting away from charity chuggers outside notre dame walking across the road and found this shop a little literary house on the built up praire.

here in deep snow ice and slush i entered the velvet curtained shop warmed me plates of meat and lazzybands while marie claimed she could hear a piano tinkle upstairs i told her it was the water pipes. a few english voices ahh a leeds guy terry? owl like on the till, chewed the literary fat, left him a magazine the Nerve i was working. came again for a few more visits,oddly we bumped into him on the way home synchronicity i had wanted to leave a present or souvenir for the shop from liverpool with love,but had no time.

but back to the future and the recent past what is life and what can one person one man do well the bookshop is a great legacy and testament to all thats great in european literature and those who love words in all languages, paris with its latin quarter nearby plague pit church on the right of the shop sorbonne striking students, and bookseller district round the corner.
however none of them have the charm or appeal that attracted so many people if only to stare at the place and reconnect with the english langauge touch base with american literay exiles and the beat generation.
spirits whom he actively helped assist and foster be it james baldwin ernest hemingway satre, de sade, dickens or orwell, jeanette winterson, sylvia plath they all rub shoulders with you as you lay your hands on them and let them enter your mind and soul and elevate you far beyond the realms of human experiece to a place were angels no longer wear disguise to a place we all eventually tread kindness elevated his soul we shall carry on his mememory. RIP George Whitmore mankind has lost one kind man but heaven has gained an angel.
from marie and john plus new daughter mischa 3 months old today. belated love + respect to family and friends.

At March 6, 2012 at 2:26 PM , Blogger Paris Adele said...

thank you John for visiting my blog and sharing your lovely stories. Indeed a wonderful bookstore and legacy he has left behind.


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