From the very first day George Whitman opened the doors of Shakespeare & Company, he welcomed young writers from around the world. George would offer a bed in his library, and in return would ask three things from those he affectionately called tumbleweeds: to help open and close the bookshop, to read a book a day and to write a one page story of their life. Fifty seven years later, these moving, funny and eclectic stories from the 'real lives' of the thousands of people who have rested between his bookshelves are now taking over George's apartment. Crushed under his bed, stacked above the fridge, pouring out of drawers, and constantly reshuffled by George, these innumerable biographies have now taken on a life of their own, a life that grows with every new writer that comes to stay at Shakespeare & Company.
During the 2006 festival, Ian Jack commented on the increasing popularity of the memoir genre and suggested the title of this year's event, Real Lives: Exploring Memoir and Biography. This immediately struck us all as an ideal subject - and one that is perfectly aligned with the spirit of the bookshop. From June 12-15, 2008 our line-up of authors will lead us in an exploration of memoir and biography. Participants will read from their work and address numerous questions related to themes such as veracity and subjectivity. How do writers expose what they consider to be the truth of a real person? How can they re-create the past both imaginatively and accurately? Why have memoir and biography become so popular? What are their pleasures? And why do some writers find they can be more honest about themselves in fiction rather than memoir?
These questions provoke endless debate and discussion and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to examine this genre through free and accessible events in one of the most charming squares in Paris. During the festival you will have the chance to listen to some of today's most talented writers on the doorstep of Notre-Dame, in a quartier rich with literary history that is home to more than 150 bookshops.
FestivalandCo is a not-for-profit association which has sprung from Shakespeare & Company. It is deliberately small, directly linked to our customers, to the books and authors we admire, and to the very particular, intimate atmosphere that can only be found in an independent bookshop. First and foremost, we want to thank the participating authors, without whom the festival would not exist. Over the past year we have been fortunate enough to benefit from the generous ideas and support from many writers, particularly Jeanette Winterson and Ian Jack. Our sincere gratitude to our sponsors and patrons, most notably the Conseil Régional d'Île-de-France, the Centre National du Livre, Eurostar, The New York Review of Books and the Mairie de Paris for their faith and support.
We hope you will be both entertained and inspired by this year's events!
Sylvia Whitman & The Festival Team
Paris, June 2008