Author: By John Lichfield in Paris
After 114 years, the bookshop?s prime site on the Avenue de L?Opéra, close to
the Louvre, is expected to become, like much of the rest of the avenue, a
designer label shop catering for the Japanese tourist trade.
Although regarded by the English-speaking community as a Paris institution,
Brentano?s has been undermined by the recession, by the internet and, above
all, by soaring commercial rents in the heart of Paris. Its landlord, the
bank BNP Paribas, increased the rent several years ago from Euros 75,000 a
year to Euros 200,000.
Brentano?s, founded in 1895 and originally part of an US-based chain of the
same name, was once a centre of American cultural life in the French
capital. “The avenue de L?Opera used to be American. It has become
Japanese,” said Chantal Bodez, last owner of the shop with her husband.
In the 1950s, the science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit
451, turned up at Brentano?s, unannounced, wearing shorts in the midst of
winter. He offered to sign his own books. A queue soon stretched into the
Mr Bradbury?s most celebrated work is about a world without books. Now aged
88, he will doubtless be glad to know that there are still other English
language bookshops in Paris, including a thriving, 106 years old branch of
The loss of Brentano?s is, nonetheless, part of a gradual erosion of
commercial quirkiness and character from the centre of the French capital.
It was confirmed last week that Samaritaine, the sprawling department store
closed down for safety reasons four years ago, would never reopen as a
single shop. After a long legal battle, the luxury goods company
Louis-Vuitton-Moet-Hennessy has been given permission to convert the
protected, art-nouveau Samaritaine site beside the river Seine into a luxury
hotel, council flats and designer fashion shops for the Japanese tourist
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