Literary pilgrimages

Travel Destinations — By on November 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm
Shakespeare and Company bookshop

The Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris.

If you’re a traveler who loves books and reading, there are any number of historic sites and interesting bookstores to add to your list of dream destinations. Along those lines, BootsnAll recently published an article that suggests nine intriguing destinations that could serve as a pilgrimage for lovers of Western literature. Here is a sample:

Shakespeare and Company Bookshop,  Paris – There is perhaps no place more important to the history of Western Literature than “The Illuminated City.” …But Paris has also been a magnet for expatriate writers from across the English-speaking world. Irish playwright Samuel Beckett fled Ireland to settle here permanently, as did James Joyce, who first published his earthshaking novel Ulysses under the stamp of The Shakespeare and Company bookshop, the infamous bookstore whose clientele has included many of the most famous writers of the 20th century. If one needed to torpedo the one establishment in Paris no English-speaking Literary enthusiast should miss, it is the Shakespeare and Co. The store’s founder, Sylvia Beach, was on intimate terms with the community of American expat writers of the 1920s, which included Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, among others.

Globe Theatre, London – It’s perhaps fitting that  “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players, ” was first said in the aptly named Globe Theatre in London. The theatre was built in 1599 by the Bard’s own theater company, possibly for a production of Henry V. Except for a brief respite from 1613-1614, when a fire from a prop-cannon malfunction during Henry the Eighth razed it to the ground, the Globe played host to some of the most important and influential verses of all time.

Even after Shakespeare’s death, the theater continued in prominence until 1842 when it was closed down by the Puritans. Two years later, it was burned down for a second time. This time, it took 353 years to get rebuilt as “Shakespeare’s Globe.” … Shakespeare’s Globe was built based on voluminous research and with painstaking historical accuracy, and like the original is open-air and unaided by spotlights, speakers, or recorded music. Even the seats are true to history, simple wooden benches, while the roof is the first thatched roof allowed since the Great Fire. Simply put, for the Bard-buff, there is no more authentic way of experiencing theater in an Elizabethan setting.

James Joyce’s Dublin – Whether you like him or not, Dublin will be forever associated with Ireland’s most famous author, James Joyce. Sometimes obscure, often seemingly purposely unreadable, Joyce is nevertheless considered by many, particularly those who’ve never read him, to be the greatest writer of the 20th century. Though he could not bear to live in this his native land (he left at a young age for Europe), his mind could likewise not bear to leave it; subsequently much of his fiction takes place in this little metropolis on the River Liffey.

Luckily for Joyce admirers, there are those who’ve gone through the trouble of mapping out the real locations of places and landmarks mentioned in his books: Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. A good place to begin is either the James Joyce Centre, which houses a recreation of his actual bedroom and occasionally gives lectures concerning his work, or the James Joyce Tower and Museum, the Martello tower in Sandycove that Joyce gave a significant role to in his novel Ulysses. Another significant site is “the House of the Dead,” a small museum in the restored house where Joyce spent Christmases with his aunts and made the setting of his short story The Dead.

For six more literary pilgrimage ideas, check out the full article.


Photo credit: Flo21 via Wikimedia Commons.

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