Three of George Whitman’s favourite books were offered to mourners as they filed out from the chapel after his service.
The Idiot, Don Quixote and Leaves of Grass.
A man who clearly loved literature and shared it with so many, no doubt would have wanted it this way, a parting gift.
By the time I arrived there was standing room only. Of course Jim Haynes was there and Jeanette Winterson made for a great introduction.
As we entered the chapel each of us was presented with a long stemmed white rose.
Later, we placed them upon his coffin.
A beautiful service, where family and friends spoke in Mr Whitman’s honour. Mentioning the ‘tumbleweeds’ as they were known, struggling writers who were offered free accommodation in his rooms above Shakespeare and Company, the iconic bookstore in Paris.
When his beautiful daughter Syliva reminisced, she painted a picture of the man, her father, bookseller, bohemian, traveller of the world and lover of literature. One could not mention him without including Shakespeare and Company in the same sentence, it was his life.
He devoured books and encouraged as many as he could to do so also, sharing his passion with all he came into contact with.
One anecdote Sylvia presented, filled the chapel with laughter.
A shopper entered his bookstore, George Whitman asked the customer if he could look after the store for 10 minutes or so and showed him where the cash box was. George returned 8 hours later!
It is only fitting that his final resting place, a man whose life was words, books and literature is amongst some of the greats, Oscar Wilde, Balzac and Colette, to name a few, at Pere Lachaise.
Before we left the chapel everyone joined in as we sang – You Are My Sunshine.