Friday, May 4, 2012
Paris Quick View (Number Three)
In Paris, there are many differences between the Right Bank and the Left Bank of the Seine. But there is one thing that is exactly the same: the Bouquinistes. Since the 16th century, used-book sellers have plied their trade in this city, and the accepted practice for doing so became the bookstalls along the Seine. Since 1859, there has been concessions granted by the city of Paris to booksellers in these fixed stalls. Much like the now displaced vegetable and meat sellers with their booths at Les Halles, these traders have their own boxes along a three kilometer stretch of the river, on both sides. Here you will find old leather bound editions of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Dumas, and Voltaire. In the very same stall you might find paperbacks of Max Brand, Agatha Christie, and Isaac Asimov--all translated into French of course. Some of the editions have been recently published, and are there for the tourists to buy cheaply. Others are editions from the Seventies, Sixties, Fifties, and even earlier decades. Many old editions of Parisian newspapers and magazines can also be found, including French editions of Life, Playboy, Match, and Vogue.
Sadly, my luggage limits were such that I passed up many great books I'd found: a French edition of Marcel Ayme's collection of short stories that included The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls, many more retro sci-fi books, as well as a good number of Zola, Dumas, and Verne works that would have been great to pick up in their original forms. While I don't read French, I'm not above buying a book I can't read. I'm that kind of bookworm. Besides, these looked so alluring, that I believe I might have taken the time to learn to read French if I could have brought a dozen of them back with me.