Paris wants to save the bookstalls on the seine

"Bouquinistes" : Paris wants to save the bookstalls along the Seine

The traditional book stalls along the Seine in Paris are to be preserved

Paris The bookstalls on the Seine in Paris are a tourist magnet. But the Corona crisis has slowed down the rush and too many souvenirs in the displays destroy the original flair.

By Michael Evers, dpa

They are an attraction for Paris tourists and lovers of old books: the "Bouquinistes" with their stalls along the Seine in the heart of the French capital.

The rummage of literature lovers and guests from all over the world in the green book boxes on the quays, however, has been dampened. The Corona crisis has slowed down the crowds, and the sale of cheap souvenirs and posters instead of the classics of French literature is destroying the original flair. Stalls are empty, the city has launched a tender and called on the population to support the "Bouquinistes", even a petition was started.

The bookstalls are world cultural heritage

"Save the booksellers, this is a challenge to civilization!"is the title of the petition that thousands are already supporting online. They have stood on the Seine for almost five centuries and have also been recognized as a World Heritage Site since 2019, but they are threatened with quiet death. "So, book lovers from Paris and elsewhere (. ), strolls along the Seine (. ) and pause for a moment at the green boxes and be seduced by the warm call of the thousands of books they contain," is the poetic call to support the merchants.

Yet in the midst of the Corona crisis, the "Bouquinistes" had already accomplished a small revolution themselves, setting up an Internet platform for ordering books when booths and residents were in lockdown. "Bouquinistes" need you!", the city council advertised the new service on its website.

Now, 18 vacant stalls out of 220 total are up for bid, until 18. February applications are accepted. There are clear requirements for the dealers as to what they are allowed to put in their four boxes in each case. Essentially, these are old books, old papers and engravings, in a box may also be offered souvenirs, insofar as they are of an artistic or cultural nature.

200 000 books on offer

"There are too many Chinese souvenirs being sold, you have to sell books and not Eiffel Towers," complains an elderly trader. "The people who love books come to the quays," she says. Her customers included foreign literature lovers looking for books they couldn’t get at home.

Even students are among them, who have a list of works worth reading from their professors. When it was able to reopen during the Corona crisis, people’s interest in books tended to increase, says the dealer. People stuck at home would have rediscovered reading.

According to information from the city, the book boxes in their current form have existed since 1891, when merchants were first allowed to store their wares in lockable boxes overnight on the quayside. Since 1900, the boxes have their current green color in the tone of the Metro trains of the time. Over a length of three kilometers, there are currently a good 900 boxes with around 200,000 books on offer.

The "Bouquinistes" owe their name to the Dutch term for a book, "boek," which today means "book." In Middle Dutch, it used to be "boeckin" for a small book. In French, it became "bouquin".

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