The Latin Quarter is a neighborhood built on literature. Its name comes from the fact that the area was once so populated by students, who were taught in Latin at the universities, that you could hear them speaking it in bars, and on the streets. It’s a neighborhood that has been home to countless writers, from James Baldwin to Jean-Paul Sartre.
But now, students and nostalgics alike are weeping for the loss of many of the quartier’s famous bookstores. Earlier this year, Gibert Jeune, a Saint-Michel staple, closed its doors. “It’s sad that such an old establishment is gone,” comments a passerby in this video. And that’s just one headline example. Smaller booksellers have been combating rising rent prices for years before COVID-19 cleared the streets of willing customers.
Booksellers were classified as an “essential service” during lockdown, so they were able to operate somewhat as normal. But fear of leaving home drove many into the waiting arms of online retailers like Amazon. Whether the desire to get out of the house will send folks back into the arms of their beloved librairies, we’ll have to wait and see.