May 15, 2012

Famed English-language bookshop in Paris to close


Sad news for Parisian anglophones: The famed English-language bookshop The Village Voice is closing its doors July 31st, according to this report on the American Library in Paris website.

While every American tourist knows about the historic Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop, owned by Sylvia Beach, publisher of James Joyce and harborer of many others. (Though few know the current shop on the Seine is not the original.) Fewer know that the real English-language shop for Parisian insiders is the Village Voice—a place where you could accidentally run over Susan Sontag on the way in, as my husband once did. For three decades the Village Voice has been the place for an incredibly distinguished roster of American and other English-speaking literary figures to rendezvous with readers.

Sadly, the reasons for the closing come as no surprise. In a letter to friends and patrons cited on the American Library in Paris website, bookshop founder and owner Odile Hellier explains that “on-line book retailers such as Amazon and the growing popularity of e-readers, among other market forces, are threatening independent bookstores all over the world,” and the Village Voice is no exception.

Back in 1982, when the bookshop first opened, its St. Germain quarter location was known as the “triangle d’or de l’edition” and was a funkier, less-expensive Parisian cultural hub. Now rents are prohibitive, and, Hellier laments, “the neighborhood has been overrun by fashionable boutiques and bars and lost its attractiveness to book browsers and buyers.”

If you are fortunate enough to be traveling to Paris before the end of July, be sure to stop in to this real historic literary landmark.



Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.