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Paris' olympic battle over bookstalls

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

By Claire Chang and Winston Chu Sept. 28, 2023


Nestled along the iconic River Seine in Paris, France, hundreds of bookstalls sell historic treasures, including rare literary pieces, vintage posters and intricate maps. These stalls form the largest European outdoor book market, where both citizens and visitors can check out historical and unique literary works. However, in preparation for the 2024 Summer Olympics, these beloved bookstalls have been ordered to close due to security reasons, prompting backlash from booksellers and local residents.


Peter Yoon Art

These bookstalls, also known as bouquinistes, have thrived for nearly 450 years and are a vital part of Paris’ culture. Similar to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe, the bouquinistes symbolize Paris. Bouquinistes first came about in the 16th century when small-scale merchants hoped to promote their books along the river, which drew high amounts of foot traffic. However, in 1649, these bookstalls were prohibited because they threatened the business of official bookstores in the area. The bouquinistes made a comeback during the French Revolution, and their presence has persisted ever since.


Peter Yoon Art

Because of the scenic beauty of the Seine, it was chosen as the venue for the opening ceremony—the first instance in Summer Olympic history where the opening ceremony was not held inside a stadium. At least 10 million people are expected to watch both athletes and representatives sail down the river, which increases the need for stricter security measures. Consequently, the bookstalls found themselves within the security perimeter of the ceremony, and nearly 570 out of 950 stalls were required to be dismantled and relocated to Bastille square for several months, according to The Guardian. Due to the terrorist attack on the 1972 Olympics in Munich in which 11 athletes were killed, the International Olympic Committee and Parisian government are wary of potential threats; officials want to remove bookstalls to minimize areas in which bombs can be hidden.


“Bomb threats cannot be taken lightly; they have been followed through many times. Even if the police were to search every single bookstall, there would still not be enough security around where the Olympics are held simply due to the number of individuals present,” Senior Norbert Magyari-Kope said.

Booksellers have not hesitated to express their frustration over the orders, as Paris City Hall failed to consult them before making the decision to relocate stalls. Since book stalls are fragile and quite old, relocation risks damaging them. The book stalls were not designed to be relocated and moved easily and due to each stall’s uniqueness, it takes ample time to study how they are built so that they may be taken down properly. Additionally, some stalls contain literary treasures and fragile works which booksellers do not want to risk losing during the moving process.


Peter Yoon Art

In response to such worries, city officials have offered to pay for the costs of relocation

and for any damage done to the stalls. However, the city offered no compensation in response to potential injuries booksellers may sustain while handling the heavy stalls.


What worries booksellers most is the loss of income during this period—sales have already been on the decline because of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing protests in France over economic justice and political reform. Now they risk losing substantial amounts of revenue during the peak summer tourist season. Booksellers also claim that no one visits Bastille square, which only exacerbates the income issues; in their current location, the stalls are perfectly positioned alongside foot traffic from the nearby bridge which connects popular tourist sites.


“The removal of the bookstalls could cause social injustice problems by showing citizens that the government is not protecting their cultural and historical artifacts. The fact that they did not consult the owners reveals red flags for citizens: it shows that the government does not care if their revenue is jeopardized,” Junior Aidan Tran-Longtin said.

Peter Yoon Art

Normal citizens also do not want the stalls to be moved since they are an integral part of Parisian culture. The history of Parisian book stalls goes back centuries, and tourists often stop by the bouquinistes during their time in Paris. Many Parisians are unhappy over their potential loss and believe it would be odd not to see the stalls throughout the day. As the months progress and the Olympics draw closer, a critical part of Parisian culture hangs in the balance.

 

About the Contributors

Claire Chang

staff writer and photo-media team


Claire Chang is a sophomore at Leland High School and is a staff writer and photo-media team member for The Charger Account. She enjoys painting, listening to music and exercising during her free time.

Winston Chu

staff writer


Winston Chu is a sophomore at Leland High. He enjoys writing, debating, and sleeping.


Peter Yoon

artist


Peter Yoon is a sophomore at Leland High School and is an artist for The Charger Account. During his free time, he likes to listen to music, draw, and sleep.




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