Paris in July: Shakespeare and Company internship 2014

Published: 13 October 2014 at 00:00

Christofere Nzalankazi (left) outside the Shakespeare and Company bookstore

Christofere Nzalankazi reports on her time at the legendary bookshop after winning our 2014 MA Publishing internship.

This year, our annual MA Publishing internship with Shakespeare and Company in Paris was won by Christofere Nzalankazi. This is her report of the time she spent at this legendary bookshop.

"I recently completed a two-week internship at Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Working for this company was an exhilarating and fantastic experience. The company owns two bookstores: a regular one and another that specialises in old and rare books.

"My daily routine consisted of the following: when my shift started, I would borrow the key for the flat above the shop in order to store my belongings. Once in the flat, I would meet an array of 'Tumbleweeds' - artists and writers who come to spend time at the shop for inspiration. They're even allowed to sleep there! There are mattresses scattered around the bookshop (which pop out from under bookcases) where they can rest while it is closed to the public. They pay for their stay by volunteering at least three hours of work a day, as well as by reading at least one novel every day.

"I would then go down to the shop and start clearing and tidying the new deliveries. Books arrived throughout the day and they needed to be shelved. While shelving, I was also required to answer customer enquiries. Customers had all types of questions ranging from finding a book in our collection to locating other English language bookshops, or even just asking for tips on the best social places in Paris. Some people just wanted to know more about the history of this magical place.

"As the store sells books in English, every volunteer or paid staff member must be able to speak English (and French) fluently. Staff come from all over the world. Just during my two weeks, there were people from Sweden, Nigeria, Poland, England, the US, Brazil and Pakistan. This mix of ethnicity made for lively shifts; people shared their experiences of where they came from, and why they were here. All of us came from different backgrounds but the one thing we all had in common was our love for books and writing.

"On the upper floor of the shop there is a sofa room where customers can sit and read, as well as a typing area where they can write their own stories (on the condition that the stories they write do not leave the bookshop). There is also a free library where people can sit to read, study or just meditate. Outside, in front of the shop, there is always an extraordinary scene to behold. The bookshop hosts one theatrical presentation a week throughout the year and also invites musicians and entertainers to perform. During my two weeks, I saw a guitarist, a violinist, a poet and a troupe of tap dancers.

"Each shift at Shakespeare and Company is like venturing into uncharted, but exciting, territory: there are always wonderful surprises waiting."