As a StoryTerrace writer, Fija interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below
Across from the sparkling river Seine, and the Île de la Cité with its proud Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, is a cobblestone street called Rue de la Bûcherie. On this street is an assortment of warmly lit bistros, the Square René Viviani, and a bookshop. This bookshop is called Shakespeare and Company.
I first went into Shakespeare and Company on a warm evening in May, knowing little to no French but drawn by its histoire as a holy land for struggling writers and by the smell of old books. In addition to the old books and new ones there were typewriters for passerby poets, a grand piano (no music after 8pm, please), a shop cat (who I suspect is secretly the ghost of the shop’s original owner), a children’s reading room, and a noticeboard. The noticeboard at Shakespeare and Company will give you more insight into the real Paris than Audrey Hepburn’s full filmography ever could; I browsed postings for theatre auditions, rooms for rent, people looking for nannies, people looking to become nannies, love notes scribbled on the backs of metro tickets, and, in one inconspicuous corner, a page torn out of a notebook with phone number and a message:
French poet looking for native English speaker to help with English poetry
Can offer French lessons in exchange
We met on a café terrace outside Place Émile-Goudeau, shaded by chestnut trees and surrounded by lilting Parisian serenades and the ever-present scent of espresso. We drank chocolat chaud and gently combed through his poetry for grammatical inconsistencies and faux amis, false cognates designed to trip up the unwary, while he helped me refine my staggering study of a new language. He learned that la déception was not the same as the English “deception”, and I learned how to say mon coeur n'est pas disponible, my heart is not available. I would have to find French lessons somewhere else.
The next day I returned to Shakespeare and Company and added my own note to the noticeboard:
New to Paris
Tell me your story
Three days later I received a text message that would change my life.