Paris Seine booksellers say wrong to ban them during Olympic Games

The mairie says they have to go as a security measure but booksellers say it sends ‘a culturally negative message’

Bouquinistes stalls like this will be removed during Paris’ 2024 Olympic Games
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The president of the Paris bookseller union has condemned the city’s decision to remove riverside booksellers’ stands ahead of the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, saying it sends a “culturally negative” message.

The Paris Mairie voted in early October for the removal of the bouquinistes and their shops during the 2024 Games.

More than 600 stalls will need to be removed, affecting hundreds of sellers.

“The mairie is sending a culturally negative message. I am extremely saddened,” said Jérôme Callais, president of a bookseller association to which around 200 bouquinistes belong.

The second-hand book dealers typically sell along the Seine with some of their stands dating back more than 100 years.

However, the Games’ Opening Ceremony is set to take place partly on the riverside with millions of visitors expected, raising concerns about the bookshops’ security.

Laurent Nuñez, the Paris’ police prefect, told the mairie committee that the bookshops could trigger potential stampedes because of their disposition, and could also serve as potential hiding places for terrorist bombs.

“The police prefecture is focusing on guaranteeing security [of the events],” he said on X (formerly Twitter).

The booksellers had received support to remain in their positions from figures within the writing world, who signed an open letter in Le Monde in August. Many also signed a petition in July, which asked the Paris police prefecture to reconsider its position.

Read more: Financially tough but fulfilling: A life selling books by the Seine

Credit: Théophile Larcher

“98% of us wanted the stalls to remain,” said Mr Callais. “It feels like there is opposition between culture and sport.”

Potential destruction of the ‘serenade of Paris’

Some owners fear that the removal operation will destroy their stalls in the process, considering some are more than 100 years old. Some owners also fear that they may not be able to return.

Opposition MPs have even asked that the removal operation be supervised by conservation professionals, ActuParis reports. The Paris Mairie has agreed to this request but has not provided a schedule as yet.

Mr Callais estimated the overall cost of the procedure to be €1.5 million. The mairie said that it will pay for the removal.

The Académie française has also leant its support to the booksellers, saying that it is "very worried" about their future, and calling for the operators to be "compensated" for the risk to their business. It has also called for the Mairie to "commit to putting these emblematic booksellers back in their place, identically, as soon as the Games finish". In a statement, the Académie wrote: "[The booksellers] have for centuries constituted an important cultural heritage element of our country".

Similarly, Mr Callais said: “We are the third most-popular of Paris’ symbols, after the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame’s cathedral. We are the postcard of Paris. The bouquinistes are like a piece of sheet music. Each quay is a stave, each stall is a note. Together we are the sheet music of the serenade of Paris."

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