In Paris, Shakespeare & Co. 'Refuge from Atrocities'
Our hearts go out to the victims and friends and family of the ISIS attacks in Paris on Friday.
Livres Hebdo reported that two young editors died in the attacks: "Lola Salines, 29, a children's book editor in the Edi 8 department at Gründ, which is part of the Editis group, and Ariane Theiller, 23, who worked at Rustica Hebdo, which is part of the Média Participations group." Both were at the concert at the Bataclan. (Via the Bookseller.)
Friday night, iconic Shakespeare & Co. became a refuge for at least 20 people as the store embodied its own prominent sign, a verse from the Bible: "Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise."
On Friday night, Harriet Alida Lye, a Canadian writer-in-residence living above Shakespeare & Co., wrote to the Guardian about the mood in the store: "We are safe in a bookshop, with the windows blacked out. There are about 20 customers with us who've been sat here for hours calling home. I haven't seen anything but police cars go by, and people stumbling out of bars in central Paris who clearly have no idea what is going on. We are all taking breaks between calling people and checking the news. We're saying it feels like this must be part of something bigger, like we are being senselessly attacked. It feels really close to home, because Paris is just so small and the attacks are all over the city. There are sirens constantly and going in every direction. The lights of Notre Dame have been turned off, which never happens at this time of night."
Noting that Shakespeare & Co. has a long tradition of acting as "a place of safety for many, as a warm retreat from reality," Rose Alana Frith, a bookseller at the store, told BuzzFeed that the store's role as "a refuge from atrocities" Friday night will be something "many will be unable to forget--coloured by a series of devastating news reports, lack of sleep, and hours of blue siren filled light. People have spoken of these events as a potential dividing line between what was before and what will come; surrounded by a medley of familiar and previously unknown faces in the darkened stairwell, as events unfolded, I felt comforted. Kindness endures. On my way home, after being awake for 22 hours, I stopped at a florist shop on the corner of my street, open in despite of what had occurred, and bought four sunflowers. 'Some light in all that darkness,' the florist said."
Shakespeare & Co. remained closed on Saturday.
Yesterday, in an essay in the National Post, Harriet Alida Lye reflected:
"All weekend, people have been asking me whether this means I'll leave Paris for good. Friends have offered their spare rooms in London and Amsterdam, and my parents have said they'll get me on the next flight back to Toronto if I want.
"I don't know what I'll do. I don't know what’s best. It's hard to know where to go from here. Maybe, for now, it's enough to have spent the weekend quietly surrounded by books.
"I believe in the power of art to transform and make sense of things; I also believe it's possible to make something powerful, even beautiful, from something tragic. The collective unity and outpouring of love coming from all corners of the world in response to these attacks is beautiful, but the artists who will make sense of it all in their own, lasting way will need a lot longer to process what has just happened, what is still happening."