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Saving Paris's Oldest Bookstore

中国日报网 2014-10-13 14:13



Wandering through Paris, one can find large chain booksellers—FNAC and Gibert Joseph, for example—but a defining characteristic of the city continues to be its tiny independent shops. Up to dozens can be found in a single neighborhood, specializing in everything from Portuguese and Brazilian literature to rare books to the contemporary rentrée littéraire—an autumn tradition when the French publishing industry releases a batch of new books.


Meanwhile, the combination of sky-high rents and online competition have pushed independent bookstores out of their spaces. A gloomy headline in The New York Times this spring diagnosed Manhattan as a "Literary City, Bookstore Desert." A similar piece in The Guardian reported that 500 British independent bookstores have closed since 2005.


Cultural exception aside, France is not entirely exempt from such shifts itself. Even in Delamain's neighborhood, the Librairie del Duca recently shut down, while the Librairie le Divan relocated to the more affordable 15th arrondissement.


In fact, the Delamain's threat may have less to do with the digital publishing landscape than with foreign competition of an entirely different sort. Average prices for Parisian apartments have skyrocketed in the last 15 years. A housing shortage that the government has called a "major crisis" can be attributed, in many cases, to foreign investment in Parisian properties—often by owners who never end up moving in.


The luxury market has been particularly impacted by foreign ownership, with owners from the U.S., Russia, and the Middle East finding Parisian property especially appealing. In some ways the trend is an echo of Japanese companies' flooding of the U.S. real estate market in the 1980s; in this case, Qatari companies entered when nations were crippled by austerity and in many cases eager for an influx of foreign capital. Constellation Hotel Holdings itself, currently in negotiations with the Librairie Delamain, has been quietly buying up luxury properties from Nice to Cannes for years—no doubt exacerbating the sentiment that there are too many foreigners in France.


Of course, Paris is far from the only European city to witness such a trend. Last year, a piece in Vanity Fair about London's One Hyde Park, the most expensive residential building in the world, revealed that a majority of its apartments sit empty, owned by absentee billionaires like Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani of Qatar. Constellation Hotel Holdings itself made the news last year for investing 400 million pounds in another London hotel; it makes billion-dollar Qatari investment deals buying up European real estate.


The knowledge that a historic Parisian bookstore may now be subject to the whims of a Middle Eastern mega-company has been incorporated into the French media's narrative about Delamain. It is already commonplace to complain that Paris has become no more than a museum, an empty shell from which the locals have fled, to be picked over by foreigners and students. And the line between national pride and hostility to foreigners has always been thin in France, where the universalism of liberté, égalité, fraternité coexists uneasily with a racially-based understanding of what it means to be French. A touch of xenophobiahas tinged the irony of some commentary, suggesting that Middle Eastern wealth is oblivious to broader cultural concerns. "If the Qataris hadn't understood that this is an important place, in terms of its physical site as well as its patrons, now they should," said one bookseller following a week of buzz in the French media. "But we're talking about Qataris, after all; these are people who have time and money for themselves." Monadé of Centre National du Livre noted that he hoped the Qataris, "mindful of their investments in terms of their image," will not let the bookstore close.


Given the peculiarities of the French cultural system, it's quite likely that the bookstore will in fact be saved. Other threats are not so quick to dissolve. On the same block of Rue Saint-Honoré, the revolving doors of the five-star Hôtel du Louvre welcome one set of patrons; the small streetside entrance of the Librairie Delamain beckons to another. The little bookshop and the international conglomerate are now intimately intertwined.


漫步巴黎,你会看到FNAC和吉贝尔·约瑟夫(Gibert Joseph)这样的大型连锁书店。但是,能代表这座城市特色的仍是那些小型独立书店。仅在一个街区,就聚集着几十家之多的独立书店,所售书籍涉及方方面面,从葡萄牙和巴西文学到各种珍本,再到当代文学。法国出版业有秋季推出新书的传统。




虽有“文化例外”保驾护航,法国也未能完全从这一转变中幸免。德拉曼书店同一街区的Del Duca书店近期倒闭,而Le Divan书店则迁到租金较为便宜的第15区。






当然,巴黎绝不是唯一见证这一趋势的欧洲城市。《名利场》杂志去年的一篇文章披露,世界上最昂贵的住宅建筑“伦敦海德公园一号”的大部分房间处于空置状态,而房主则是诸如卡塔尔总理哈马德·本·贾西姆·阿勒萨尼(Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani)这样的亿万富豪。去年,星座酒店集团豪掷4亿英镑投资于另一家伦敦酒店,一度成为新闻话题。它还促使数十亿美元来自卡塔尔的资金大量买进欧洲房地产。












(译者 AshleyColin 编辑 祝兴媛)





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