Covid-19: French authors to bail out ‘rebel’ bookshop owners

People, wearing face masks, queue outside a bookstore to collect books on October 31, 2020 in Paris.
People, wearing face masks, queue outside a bookstore to collect books on October 31, 2020 in Paris. AFP

Alexandre Jardin, author of best-selling novels such as ‘Le Zebre’ and ‘Fanfan’, rallied to the defence of the bookshop owners who have flouted the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown.


“French authors decided on Saturday that, when a bookseller receives a fine, the authors will pay them,” Jardin told the radio station Europe 1.

He cited the example of the author Didier van Cauwelaert, winner of France’s top literary prize the Prix Goncourt, had offered to pay the fine imposed on a bookstore in the city of Cannes.

“The next bookshop will be me, and the next somebody else,” he said, declaring that "a state has no moral right to close bookshops.”

In an open letter to President Emmanuel Macron, van Cauwelaert warned that restricting access to culture posed a threat to France's “precious freedom of speech.”

Following the second lockdown announcement, bookstores are among the non-essential establishments that have been shut since October 30, with only ‘click and collect’ operations allowed. Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday that the rules will not change until December 1.

Jardin pointed out that other European countries, such as Belgium, had allowed bookshops to remain open.

According to Olivier Nora, CEO of Grasset publishing house, the months of November and December are crucial for the bookstores as they account for 25 percent of the annual revenues.

He termed the closure of bookshops for another 15 days a catastrophic situation. “The click and collect brings between 10 and 15 percent of the usual turnover,” he told Europe 1.

Besides bookstores, the government also decided to shut hairdressers, toy stores, perfumeries, florists, restaurants, bars, cinemas and malls since October 30 in order to bring down the Covid-19 infection numbers.

The disease has so far killed over 44,000 people in France.

- with AFP

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