PARIS – George Whitman, the American bibliophile whose iconic English-language Paris bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, has been a haven for book lovers for more than half a century, died Wednesday, the store announced on its website. He was 98 years old.
Whitman “died peacefully at home in the apartment above his bookshop,” two months after having suffered a stroke, a posting on the store’s site said.
Whitman “showed incredible strength and determination up to the end” and read every day with his daughter, Sylvia, his friends and his cat and dog, it said.
Nestled on the left bank of the Seine River, Shakespeare & Company is a veritable warren of books, stacked with volumes from floor to ceiling. Since its founding in 1951, the shop has been a beacon for writers and would-be writers, whom Whitman allowed to crash in the store in exchange for help around the shop. Boarders, browsers and Whitman’s beloved pets could be seen snoozing among the stacks. Any visitor is welcome to curl up to read in the comfy chairs that dot the store.
After serving as a medical warrant officer for the U.S. Army in World War II, Whitman moved to Paris permanently under the GI Bill in 1948. Three years later, he founded his bookshop.
Regarded as an institution of Paris’ cultural scene, Whitman was made an officer of arts and letters by the French Culture Ministry in 2006.