The Paris Bookstalls: The Defiant Ones Who Refuse to Move

The book sellers of Paris have firmly and definitively refused to move for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. This defiant profession has gained sympathy from the public beyond the banks of the Seine. “It’s a bit of an anarchist job,” says 50-year-old Alexia Delrieu, who has been in the profession for about twelve years near the Tournelle bridge.

That’s why the Paris Prefecture seems to have underestimated the resistance of this profession in their plan to move around 570 book boxes fixed to the parapet along the Seine. The method used by the authorities has offended them. It was the Paris City Hall that, during a meeting about the Olympics on July 10th, began to discuss the subject: for security reasons, they would have to clear the area for the evening when the ceremony took place on the river.

The book sellers asked for official written confirmation. A letter from the Prefecture confirmed that in the days leading up to July 26, 2024, their trade and their inventory would have to temporarily leave the area.

“We are calling for reason. Taking these boxes apart is a logistical nightmare. Many of them won’t survive. There is a much simpler solution, which is to bring in bomb disposal experts, seal the boxes, and reopen quickly afterwards,” explains Pascal Corseaux, vice-president of the Cultural Association of the Parisian Book Sellers.

For any mayor of Paris, the question of the book sellers is delicate. They do not pay rent for their use of public space. And they do not always strictly follow the rules that should ensure, primarily, a minimum of coherence in the landscape and opening days.

“The regulations, the regulations…” sighs Guido Cuccolo, 71, stationed on the quai de Conti. “They keep changing. Being a book seller is a profession of freedom: there are no real rules.”

He, who with his long white beard, has the character of a born protester, says he is “optimistic” about his chances of staying there, whether there are Olympics or not. Despite the authorities, because according to him, “the Paris City Hall doesn’t care about us.”

The book sellers quickly realized that they had to play the opinion card. It has shown itself to be extremely supportive of their cause as soon as the topic attracted the attention of national and international media.

In the French press, for example, both the communist daily newspaper L’Humanité and the weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (now led by the journalist affiliated with the far right, Geoffroy Lejeune) recently went to meet them.

Today, a press relations agency is involved in this fight, to continue to keep the issue alive that could otherwise fade away in indifference. Voluntarily, because the profession is poorly paid.

“The good old days were 20 years ago and more, before the internet. Now, you have to work hard to earn the minimum wage,” says Guido Cuccolo.

The economic reality is that many of these traders would not recover from having to wait for their wooden green wagon boxes to be removed, restored, and re-implanted during the peak tourist season.

“The city has changed its allocation criteria. Now, they try to give a spot to people who have other sources of income,” explains Alexia Delrieu. She herself is a children’s author, sculptor, and ceramist.

“Those who tell us that it is completely feasible to move, that we will be given very beautiful boxes, they just don’t realize,” she laments. “I have neighbors who, if they don’t make sales one day, simply don’t eat.”

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