Sunday, 26 October 2008

Bookstores Around the World: Librairie Gallimard in Montreal. . .

While strolling along St. Laurent in Montreal, I came across this bookstore devoted solely to the imprints published by Gallimard. There are very few bookstores that showcase only one publisher although it's an intriguing idea. It works very well for a small press like Persephone Books that specializes in a certain type of book with a uniform look. They now have two stores and I love that they also sell books they wished they could publish; books their staff love or ones that fit in theme or period to some of the authors they do publish. They also sell a small collection of used books - again ones that fit with their vision (which more or less jives with my literary interests) and I've found a few gems there. It makes sense for university presses to run their own bookstores as well since only a scattering of their titles ever make it into the big box stores. I've been to the MIT Press Bookstore - are there any others?

Librairie Gallimard is a beautiful small bookstore and this dedication to one publisher works extremely well, mostly because one of its most prestigious imprints is Folio, which has several thousand titles in its backlist - all the French classics and a good chunk of contemporary French literature as well. The books have a bold yet simple design, dominated by a colourful photo or piece of art. They are all numbered (very classy - Persephone does this too) and the spines are all white, which gives the bookcases a striking and sophisticated look; I've always loved those older black and white French movies that involve a bookstore scene. They are irresistable pick-me-up-and-buy me books and I was happy to comply. I wanted to read something by the recent Nobel Prize winner J.M.G Le Clézio (very little of which has been translated into English which is a shame), and thought a small volume of two short stories titled Peuple du ciel would be a good place to start. Then since I loved Irène Némirovsky's Suite française, I picked up Ida - also a collection of two short stories. Finally, I couldn't resist Sur le zinc - a small collection of snippets from literature that all take place in cafes. It seemed the fitting souvenir to bring back from my mini-break to Montreal. Aren't the covers gorgeous?

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