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 season Olympics for what officers say are safety causes. The booksellers, generally known as “les bouquinistes,” have mentioned 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 without the bouquinistes is like Venice without the gondolas,” mentioned Jean-Pierre Mathias, 76, who has had a stall alongside the Seine for about 4 many years. 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, mentioned that he and different bouquinistes have been signing petitions in opposition to the proposal. If that fails, he mentioned, they’ll barricade themselves in entrance of their stalls to cease them from being dismantled.
Open each day from morning till nightfall, the bouquinistes are each a fixture alongside the riverside and a logo of Paris’s literary tradition, attracting curious vacationers and locals searching for uncommon books. The custom dates to not less than the seventeenth century, when peddlers offered secondhand books alongside the Pont Neuf from picket carts and tables. By the Nineteenth century, Napoleon licensed the bookstalls, in style with intellectuals and writers, and so they grew to become everlasting.
In the present day, the roughly 230 open-air booksellers, stationed alongside the Seine for about two miles, make up the most important open-air ebook market in Europe. About 170 of the stalls might be required to shut for not less than two weeks throughout the Paris Video games, in accordance with 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 deliver again grandeur to the Video games, which start July 26. Seashore volleyball might be performed on the base of the Eiffel Tower. Equestrian occasions might 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 a whole bunch 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 mentioned they’d issues that bombs could possibly be hidden within the stalls.
In Paris, with its completely preserved mid-Nineteenth-century facades, there may be extra concern about preserving traditions and components of the town throughout the Olympic Video games than in different cities. Tony Travers, a professor on the London Faculty of Economics and an skilled on native authorities and design, mentioned he couldn’t recall comparable cases of stress earlier than the London 2012 Olympics, the final time a metropolis in Europe hosted the Summer season Video games. Which will have been as a result of many Olympic occasions in London befell in part of East London that had been stuffed with deserted warehouses, not within the coronary heart of the town, he mentioned.
In Paris, a number of booksellers, nonetheless recovering from misplaced earnings throughout the Yellow Vest protests and the pandemic, when tourism dropped, mentioned that it might be devastating to lose a number of weeks of earnings throughout the peak summer season vacationer season. Town permits bouquinistes to promote rent-free, however some have needed to resort to promoting low cost souvenirs somewhat than books to earn a residing.
The police in Paris have mentioned that the bouquinistes can quickly arrange their stalls within the energetic Bastille neighborhood. However chief among the many booksellers’ issues is that the stalls are outdated and delicate, and transferring them might lead to everlasting harm.
Thierry Leneveu, a bouquiniste with a stall close to the Louvre, mentioned that he understood the necessity for safety throughout the Olympics, however that asking booksellers to dismantle their stalls, with no compensation, went too far. “Our stalls are heavy and fragile,” he mentioned, smoking a cigarette, as he offered posters of the Tour de France to an American couple. Getting repairs performed after the Video games could be not possible, as a result of artisans might be on trip, he and different booksellers mentioned.
Metropolis officers have promised to restore about 40 of essentially the most fragile stalls whereas they’re disassembled throughout the Olympics.
Town’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, initially reassured the booksellers of their significance to the town and instructed another plan that may preserve 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 mentioned on Tuesday.
Najib Nahas, 57, a bookseller with a stall close to the Musée d’Orsay, mentioned 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 common after the Olympics.
“We’re part of what makes Paris picture perfect,” he mentioned.