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The Paris Bouquinistes

Kirsty Lang visits Paris to explore the centuries-old story of traders selling books by the River Seine. From June 2010.

Paris has many grand monuments dominating its skyline, but for regular visitors to the 'city of light' there’s a sight every bit as ingrained into its terroir as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Sacre Coeur - that of the riverside booksellers.

Having plied their trade for centuries on the banks of the River Seine, Les Bouquinistes can count Presidents (including Mitterand and Thomas Jefferson) as regular customers, and boast a proud history of providing a source of literatures thought subversive to the prevailing authorities of the day.

More recently, many have branched out from books to supplement their income, offering plastic souvenirs instead of Balzac, plastic tat in place of Monserrat - a practice the city council, worried about tarnishing the image of playground Paris, has fought against.

Kirsty Lang takes a long stroll along the Seine to meet some of the latest crop and discover how confident they feel about the future prosperity of their time-honoured trade.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2010.

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30 minutes

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