Shakespeare & Company: The Letters of Sylvia Beach

Kathryn Hughes explores a cultural history of 20th Century modernism through The Letters of Sylvia Beach
The Letters of Sylvia Beach,
ed. Keri Walsh
Novelist Kathryn Hughes takes a closer look at the myth surrounding Shakespeare & Co. owner Sylvia Beach, the so-called 'midwife of literary modernism'. A recently published collection of Beach's personal correspondence reflects the history and the growth of a landmark Paris bookshop, in the context of obscenity scandals, Nazi threat, and later an enthusiastic academic community. Importantly, Hughes asserts that the collection serves to debunk some of the predominant myths surrounding Beach and Shakespeare & Co.: 'Beach's letters, a selection of which are published here for the first time, do not tell a tale of obvious heroism, even though the events which shadow them – insolvency, internment by the Nazis, dinner with Gertrude Stein – might tax most of us. Instead, their story is one of getting by – of just about managing to pay the bills and conserve health while doing your dogged best to ensure that western literature will never be the same again.'

Read more: Kathryn Hughes, 'The Letters of Sylvia Beach edited by Keri Walsh', The Guardian, 31 July 2010 · Biblioklept interviews Keri Walsh