Move the second-hand booksellers from Paris for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games? It is a firm and definitive no from this indocile profession, which has attracted the sympathy of public opinion well beyond the banks of the Seine. “It's a bit of an anarchist job,” Alexia Delrieu, 50, who has been doing it for a dozen years near the Tournelle bridge, told AFP. This is why the Paris prefecture, in its plan to move some 570 book boxes attached to the parapet along the Seine, seems to have poorly anticipated the resistance of this corporation.
The executive's method offended her. It was the Paris town hall which, during a meeting on the Olympic Games on July 10, began to raise the subject: for security reasons, it would be necessary to think about leaving a clear space for the evening when the ceremony would take place on river. These traders requested official writing. A letter from the prefecture confirmed to them that, in the days preceding July 26, 2024, their business and their funds would have to leave the premises temporarily.
“We call for reason. Dismantling these boxes is a logistical nightmare. Many of them will not survive. There is a much simpler solution, which is to bring in deminers, seal the boxes and then reopen very quickly,” explains the vice-president of the Cultural Association of Booksellers of Paris, Pascal Corseaux.
For any mayor of Paris, the question of second-hand booksellers is delicate. They do not pay rent for their occupation of the public domain. And they do not always scrupulously follow the rules which must guarantee, mainly, a minimum of consistency in the landscape and opening days.
“The regulations, the regulations…” sighs Guido Cuccolo, 71, based on the Conti quay. “It changes all the time. Bookseller is a profession of freedom: there are no real rules.” He who displays, with his long white beard, his character as a born protester, says he is “optimistic” about his chances of staying there, Olympics or not. Despite the authorities, because according to him, “the Paris town hall has nothing to do with us”. Very quickly, book sellers understood that they had to play the opinion card. She was extremely supportive of their cause as soon as the subject excited the national and international media.
In the French press for example, both the communist daily L'Humanité and the weekly Le Journal du Dimanche (now directed by the far-right journalist Geoffroy Lejeune) very recently went to meet them. A press relations agency is now taking care of this fight, to continue to bring to life a subject that could die out in indifference. Volunteering, because the profession is penniless. “The good times were 20 years or more ago, before the Internet. Now, we have to work to get to the minimum wage,” notes Guido Cuccolo.
The economic reality is that many of these traders would not recover from having to wait until, in the middle of the tourist season, their green wagon wooden boxes are removed, restored and reinstalled. “The town hall has changed its award criteria. Now, she tries to give a location 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 entirely feasible to move, that we will be given back very beautiful boxes, they do not realize,” she laments. “I have neighbors who, if they don’t sell one day, they simply don’t eat.”