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Typical vintage book sellers on the Seine riverbanks in Paris
PhotographL EricBery/

Paris’s iconic Seine booksellers are being forced to close because of the Olympics

The city of Paris claims the legendary bouquinistes will obstruct the view of the Seine during the opening ceremony

Liv Kelly
Written by
Liv Kelly

Ahead of the Olympic games in Paris next year, booksellers who have occupied the iconic stalls along the Seine for hundreds of years have been asked by the city to move. And the booksellers – known as bouquinistes – are not happy.

According to the Paris Booksellers' Cultural Association, the bouquinistes received a letter from city officials claiming the stalls pose an obstruction to the river view, the banks of which are a key spot for the opening ceremony. And while the bouquinistes have been given the option of relocating to a so-called ‘bookseller village’ in Bastille during the games, they’re refusing to move, claiming their stalls are a ‘major symbol of Paris’.

600,000 people are set to attend the games which will take place along the river, and around 35,000 security staff will be required. 

The potential for the stalls to get accidentally damaged during such a crowded time was one reason offered by Paris authorities, and they proposed the opportunity to ‘renovate’ the stalls during their temporary relocation. However, many booksellers were concerned about the potential for damage during their removal from their historic homes, as some of them are 100 years old. 

‘We are part of the Paris landscape,’ Gilles Morineaux, a bookseller who has run a stall on the right bank for over 20 years, told French news channel BFMTV. And he’s not wrong. The bouquinistes of Paris have occupied stalls along the Seine river since the 16th century – and while the banks of the Seine received UNESCO world heritage status in the early 1990s, the booksellers have been campaigning to have their own official recognition as a site of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ for many years. Today, they make up the largest open-air bookshop in Europe. 

It’s hard to imagine the banks of the Seine without without the bouquinistes, even if it is only temporary. 570 of around 900 stalls are potentially facing this relocation. 

Jérôme Callais, president of the Paris booksellers association, told French newspaper Le Monde that ‘wanting to make us disappear is as absurd as dismantling the Eiffel Tower or Notre-Dame de Paris.’

After a turbulent few years for the booksellers, with the gilet jaunes protests, transport strikes and COVID, it seems they are now facing another obstacle to their trade. 

Did you see that you’ll soon be able to swim in the Seine river in Paris?

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