La Hune, the iconic Parisian bookshop which was the focal point for intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus for more than 60 years, closed for the last time on Sunday after a long struggle to make ends meet.
“We are closed. Permanently closed. I’m sorry,” was the standard reply at 8pm on Sunday evening as tourists and locals alike flocked to pay a final visit to one of the French capital’s most loved bookshops, famed for its vast collections of French and international literature, history, art and design.
Founded by a group of resistance fighters in 1949 and often open until midnight, La Hune, originally located between the famed Café de Flore and the equally frequented Les Deux Magots in Paris's sixth arrondissement, became a landmark meeting place for France’s intelligentsia. The clientele included some of the country’s greatest writers, politicians and artists. Coco Chanel, Françoise Sagan and François Mitterand were frequent visitors.
In recent years, however, the shop became the victim of ever-increasing rents as the fashionable Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighbourhood became more and more expensive. In 2012 it was forced to move from its emblematic address on 170 Boulevard Saint-Germain to the nearby 18 Rue de l’Abbaye to make way for a Louis Vuitton store.
The move was widely seen as the final blow for the already cash-strapped bookshop.
'The last book at La Hune'
“The bookshop was accumulating too many problems,” said Olivier Place, director of La Hune’s previous owner Librairies Flammarion which sold it to Gallimard in 2012, pointing out that the turnover had dropped by around 35 percent since 2009.
“This was my bookshop,” French photographer and artist Sophie Calle said, clutching two paperbacks before becoming La Hune’s last ever customer.
“I bought the last book at La Hune’s old address. I bought the first book at its new address, and here I am today. It’s like a ritual,” she said.
As the steel shutters rolled down over the doors, the shop’s manager of 25 years, a visibly moved Miguel Dupont, laid a wreath in front of the shop’s entrance. “Thank you everyone,” he said to applause blended with boos that rung out in the warm summer evening.
La Hune had four permanent employees and seven staff on temporary contracts. They will now be relocated to other bookshops within the Gallimard group.
The spot vacated by La Hune in 18 Rue de l’Abbaye will now house a shop specialised in photo reproduction.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2015-06-15