The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

A century after it was founded, Brentano's Bookshop in Paris has been forced to close down. Le Figaro is sympathetic and outraged at the loss of a cultural icon in the French capital.

Specializing in American literature, Brentano's is the direct victim of rising rents in the capital.

It lasted more than a century firmly on its feet. Established on the Avenue de l'Opéra, Brentano's bookstore was part of historic Paris. The company recently closed its doors. Finis. And with this news concludes a long chapter in Literature.

Since 1895, this bookshop, founded by Simon Brentano, was a prerequisite for the greatest American authors travelling to Paris. Auteurs such as Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain made it a point to visit here. The library worried the Nazis, who confiscated thousands of books - primarily atlases and maps! - to be replaced by German propaganda. And, on occasion, the library helped the French to source paper during the years of shortage. Great writers such as André Maurois and Pierre Lazareff have benefited from it. So what is the cause of the unexpected death of a historic undertaking which managed to sell more than 3 million euros worth of novels, essays and other documents every year?

The fault does not lie with its customers. They did not desert - far from it. The library was always a welcoming place for Americans and French fans of Anglo-Saxon literature. The closure of Brentano's unfortunately illustrates the true scourge of the bookseller: soaring rents in Paris.

For nearly eight years as director, Chantal Bodez, has been in conflict with the owner of the premises, BNP Paribas. The bank, as the regulations allowed, decided to remove ceilings on rent. The bill presented to the booksellers, Chantal and Jean-Marc Bodez was exorbitant: €200,000 per year, against the earlier €75,000, for about 400 square meters of space. After much negotiation, BNP lowered its demands. But the final offer, €175,000, remained far too high.

Brentano's bookstore was first placed in receivership in 2008 by the Commercial Court, and then had to surrender its keys two weeks ago. Fourteen employees were laid off. The booksellers have to seek another premises, smaller now, but definitely in the same district of the Opera.

This closure follows the footsteps of another, equally symbolic. The University Bookstore in the Place de la Sorbonne had suffered the same fate three years ago. A clothing store is now established in its place.


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