Village Voice Bookshop in Paris

Twice I have had the great fortune to visit a wonderful English-language bookstore in Paris, Village Voice Bookshop, not to be confused with the history-haunted and heavily-touristed Shakespeare & Co., which certainly warrants browsing, with its eclectic selection and tight maze of tall shelves packed with mostly used books.   Begun in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, who first published James Joyce's Ulysses, the store was re-opened in a new location on the Left Bank by George Whitman in 1951 and today is operated by his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman.

Village Voice is owned by the irrepressible Odile Hellier, the daughter of a resistance fighter who was killed in WWII and had his home library piled up in the street and burned by Nazi officers.   Odile is a passionate hand-seller of books, which she calls her raison d'etre.   The shop is small enough to be cozy but large enough to sport a broad and highly appealing selection of new books.   Odile buys her stock from both the U.K. and America, and as a browser it is a nice sensation to find all the new books from both countries, yet odd to think that one can find such marvelous choices in France, but not in England or the U.S.

Odille has a steady stream of writers coming through her store, Paris having always been a magnet for writers, many of whom are in Paris to meet with their French publishers, as was the case when I visited the shop with Richard Ford, who has had a strong following of French readers for many years. He was in Paris, working, as I recall, on Women With Men, and his reading at Village Voice was packed, with Diane Johnson and Mavis Gallant among those in attendance. Writers read or speak in the shop from a stairway landing, with audience gathered around the ground floor. The store is in the 6th Arrondissement at 6, rue Princesse, a sweet, petite street where Village Voice beckons. If you go to Paris, don't miss Village Voice, a sampling of which may be found here:

Richard Howorth