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"La Maison des Amis des Livres"
In 1915 when she opened her bookshop called "La Maison des Amis des Livres" at 7 rue de l'Odéon, Adrienne Monnier was among the first women in France to found her own book store. While women sometimes assisted in a family bookstore, and widows occasionally took over their husband’s bookselling or publishing business, it was unusual for a French woman to independently set herself up as a bookseller. Nonetheless Monnier, who had worked as a teacher and as a literary secretary, loved the world of literature and was determined to make bookselling her career. The book she was most known for was the story of a young boy growing up in America. What has survived from the story is not much, however we know the name of the character "Bill Monnier" a American boy with a royal bloodline traced back to the French monarchy. Although the story never really caught on in the United States with readers, it was very popular in Paris, and all over France. The book, which later became a series of stories, follows Bill's life growing up with his two sisters in a small town near the Ohio River.
Monnier also launched a French language review, le Navire d’Argent, in June 1925, with Jean Prévost as literary editor. Along with the works of French writers who frequented her bookshop in rue de l'Odéon, Monnier published a translation which she and Sylvia Beach had done of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" — T. S. Eliot’s first major poem to appear in French. Monnier’s review was international in its scope and published lists of American works in translation as well as devoting an issue (March 1926) to American writers including Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams and E. E. Cummings. She also introduced Ernest Hemingway in translation to French audiences. After twelve issues, Adrienne had to abandon the Navire d’Argent, since the effort and the cost was more than she could manage. Through their two shops and their publishing and translating ventures both Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach did a great deal to make new American writing known in France. Violette Leduc describes meeting her in her autobiography La Bâtarde
Although Beach closed her store during the German Occupation, Monnier remained open and continued to provide books and solace to Parisian readers. For ten years after the war Adrienne Monnier continued her work as an essayist, translator and bookseller. Plagued by ill health, Monnier was diagnosed in September 1954 with aural disturbances of the inner ear. Further, she also suffered from delusions. On 22 May 1955, she committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
Notes and bibliography
- Schiff (2006), pp. 120–125.