Sunday, November 30, 2008

French Existential Novels Suffer

[Right : The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette Published by Serpents Tail]

I am alarmed to see that the woes of the global economy which have reached Publishing, have now spread to the shores of the Seine reports The Guardian from London.

They salvaged books from raids on aristocrats' libraries during the French revolution and hid resistance material during the Nazi occupation. Paris's bouquinistes - the hundreds of booksellers whose open-air stalls along the river Seine carry Unesco world heritage status - have survived four centuries of censorship, floods and political upheaval. But now they are under threat from a new enemy: cheap, plastic Eiffel towers.

Bouquinistes' sales have dived as their carefully collected stocks of rare and out-of-print books face competition from online dealers and a change in Parisians' reading and shopping habits. Many now sell tourist trinkets to stay afloat, cramming their stalls with souvenirs.

But Paris city hall, alarmed that the garish knick-knacks are damaging Paris's "cultural landscape", has launched a battle to protect the literary soul of the banks of the Seine. Bouquinistes have been invited to crisis talks at the city hall in an attempt to promote more intellectual merchandise. But some warn that if they cannot adapt to the changing market they will "die of hunger".

The stalls stretch for about 2 miles along both banks of the Seine, and about 200 sellers offer more than 300,000 books in the biggest open-air bookshop in the world. Since the 16th century, they have attracted literary Parisians. But what Balzac described as "catacombs of glory" that devoured the time of "Paris's poets, philosophers and scholars" are now so stretched for trade that some complain that in winter they might make only €20 (£16.50) a day.

I wonder what Jean-Patrick Manchette and Albert Camus would have thought with the fall of the Bouquinistes

Read the full story here

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