The open-air bookstalls that line the River Seine are as symbolic of Paris because the Louvre or the Arc de Triomphe.
However many of the boxy, darkish inexperienced stalls should be dismantled and quickly eliminated earlier than the 2024 Summer time Olympics for what officers say are safety causes. The booksellers, generally known as “les bouquinistes,” have stated they won’t budge, calling the order issued by the Paris police chief final week an affront to the French capital’s historical past and soul.
“Paris with out the bouquinistes is like Venice with out the gondolas,” stated Jean-Pierre Mathias, 76, who has had a stall alongside the Seine for about 4 a long time. Mr. Mathias, a former philosophy instructor who sells works together with an essay on Brigitte Bardot and a reprint of a 1781 ebook by a French barrister, stated that he and different bouquinistes have been signing petitions towards the proposal. If that fails, he stated, they’ll barricade themselves in entrance of their stalls to cease them from being dismantled.
Open day-after-day from morning till nightfall, the bouquinistes are each a fixture alongside the riverside and an emblem of Paris’s literary tradition, attracting curious vacationers and locals on the lookout for uncommon books. The custom dates to not less than the seventeenth century, when peddlers bought secondhand books alongside the Pont Neuf from wood carts and tables. By the Nineteenth century, Napoleon licensed the bookstalls, in style with intellectuals and writers, they usually turned everlasting.
At the moment, the roughly 230 open-air booksellers, stationed alongside the Seine for about two miles, make up the biggest open-air ebook market in Europe. About 170 of the stalls can be required to shut for not less than two weeks through the Paris Video games, based on a duplicate of a doc that metropolis officers confirmed bouquinistes at a gathering final month.
After the empty arenas of the Olympics in Tokyo, postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and in Beijing in 2022, organizers in Paris are aiming to convey again grandeur to the Video games, which start July 26. Seaside volleyball can be performed on the base of the Eiffel Tower. Equestrian occasions can be held within the gardens of the Château de Versailles. The opening ceremony will happen not in a stadium, however alongside the Seine, with 1000’s of Olympic athletes using on a flotilla of 160 boats earlier than tons of of 1000’s of spectators on the river’s banks.
The ceremony’s uncommon format poses logistical and safety complications, for each the Worldwide Olympic Committee and the Paris police, who stated they’d considerations that bombs may very well be hidden within the stalls.
In Paris, with its completely preserved mid-Nineteenth-century facades, there may be extra concern about preserving traditions and parts of town through the Olympic Video games than in different cities. Tony Travers, a professor on the London College of Economics and an professional on native authorities and design, stated he couldn’t recall comparable cases of pressure earlier than the London 2012 Olympics, the final time a metropolis in Europe hosted the Summer time Video games. That will have been as a result of many Olympic occasions in London happened in part of East London that had been stuffed with deserted warehouses, not within the coronary heart of town, he stated.
In Paris, a number of booksellers, nonetheless recovering from misplaced earnings through the Yellow Vest protests and the pandemic, when tourism dropped, stated that it will be devastating to lose a number of weeks of earnings through the peak summer season vacationer season. The town permits bouquinistes to promote rent-free, however some have needed to resort to promoting low cost souvenirs slightly than books to earn a dwelling.
The police in Paris have stated that the bouquinistes can quickly arrange their stalls within the full of life Bastille neighborhood. However chief among the many booksellers’ considerations is that the stalls are outdated and delicate, and transferring them may end in everlasting injury.
Thierry Leneveu, a bouquiniste with a stall close to the Louvre, stated that he understood the necessity for safety through the Olympics, however that asking booksellers to dismantle their stalls, with no compensation, went too far. “Our stalls are heavy and fragile,” he stated, smoking a cigarette, as he bought posters of the Tour de France to an American couple. Getting repairs finished after the Video games could be not possible, as a result of artisans can be on trip, he and different booksellers stated.
Metropolis officers have promised to restore about 40 of essentially the most fragile stalls whereas they’re disassembled through the Olympics.
The town’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, initially reassured the booksellers of their significance to town and prompt another plan that might maintain the stalls in place as soon as the police verified they weren’t a safety menace. However that plan was not into consideration as a result of the police deemed it essential to take away the stalls for security, a spokeswoman for Ms. Hidalgo stated on Tuesday.
Najib Nahas, 57, a bookseller with a stall close to the Musée d’Orsay, stated it was a disgrace that vacationers on the town for the Olympics would miss the sights of the bouquinistes. However he had little doubt that the bouquinistes would choose up enterprise as traditional after the Olympics.
“We’re a part of what makes Paris image good,” he stated.