Publication Date: 1960
Publisher: Narrativas Gallo Nero
Strong Point: To get to know the literary atmosphere of Paris during the first half of the 20th century.
Weak Point: Any!
Books on Tour Rating: (4/5)
Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3.47/5)
“I was born on the 26th of April 1892 in Paris, where I have always lived.”
“RUE DE L’ODÉON”
I don’t exactly know how I found this book or when I bought it. But I know for sure it had been sitting on my shelves for way too long.
I bought it in Spain (it is in Spanish, translated from the original French by Julia Osuna), stayed there for a long time and then travelled to Hamburg, and still I was not finding the right time to read it.
However, last year on May the time came! And I was very glad to have read it. So let’s dive into it!
“Shakespeare & Co.” is probably one of the most famous English bookshops in the entire world. Sylvia Beach was its founder. The shop was situated in Rue de L’Odéon.
However, what a lot of people do not know is that Adrienne Monnier was also the founder of a bookshop situated in Rue de L’Odéon. It opened its doors in 1915 in Paris under the name of La maison des Amis des Livres. Adrienne was also Sylvia’s friend and lover. But everyone knows Sylvia, and no one has ever heard about Adrienne. And what a pity that is.
“Rue de L’Odéon” is part memories, part homage to this fantastic woman who, in the middle of a World War and a military occupation, being only 23 years old, opens a small bookshop at the heart of the Quartier Latin.
Very well educated and with a passion for books, she had been working before opening her bookshop in an academic magazine. Her father helped her a bit economically so that she could make her dream come true.
With time and much learning (she opened the shop without any experience in running a business), La maison des Amis des Livres changes forever the literary scene of the city. She was what we would call now an entrepreneur.
Among its shelves strolled famous authors like James Joyce, Beckett, Proust or Hemingway.
Clients respected her impeccable taste in books and her much knowledge about literature. Authors found in her someone with whom to speak about their work and life in general. She even started a “book loan” service, transforming her shop in a type of library.
A fervent advocate of feminism she was a very important part of the cultural sphere of the time, being one of the first women to be part of it.
She loved poetry and had an amazing instinct in recognising literary talent.
Adrienne did not make it to see published any of her words. For that reason, what we read in this book are her words mixed with the ones of Simone de Beauvoir, Paul Claudel, or Rilke.
She also talks about different authors with whom she had contact during her time at the bookshop, a lot of then French whose names I have never heard but who I have added to my list of authors to “investigate”. Some of them sound very interesting, as they were constantly experimenting with new forms of literature.
On the other hand, we see Adrienne through the eyes of those people who had the immense luck of knowing her and spending time together.
ADRIENNE’S BITTER END
La Maison would close in 1951 after 30 years of constant activity.
Adrienne had been suffering all her life from Ménière disease and any treatment seemed to work. So, when she couldn’t take it anymore, she committed suicide in 1955.
However, her many friends missed her so much that, following her instructions, they compiled these texts as a tribute to such an amazing woman and friend.
FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT “RUE DE L’ODÉON”
I recommend this short story collection if you like reading magical realism. If not, don’t read it as the book is full of it. I must say
If you like books and literature (and I hope you do, if you are reading my blog) this book would be very interesting for you.
Its pages are full of Adrienne’s love for books and literature in general. They are also full of humbleness, strength and fight for ones’s dreams.
There is perhaps a big absence, the one of Sylvia Beach, who is only mentioned a couple of times, very briefly. Why is that so? No idea, but maybe this was how Adrienne wanted it to be. So that’s it.
I understand it is not a book for everyone but after sitting so long on my shelves, I definitely wish I would have read it earlier than I did. So give it a chance.