I read some of my poems on Thursday evening at 7 pm, 11 February 1993 at the tiny Village Voice bookshop on the Left Bank, a few yards from the Boulevard Saint-Germain. It’s widely known as the best English-language literary bookshop in Paris if not in Europe, and its regular readings are popular.
Madame Odile Hellier, the owner, was extremely hospitable, and had sensibly arranged to obtain numerous copies of several of my books of poetry as well as the «Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry». As Barry Humphries might have said, they made a lovely show in the window, and quite a number sold after the reading. The Australia-France Foundation at the Australian Embassy was extremely helpful here, organising to fly the copies at short notice from Australia through the generosity of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Australian novelist Frank Moorhouse travelled hundreds of miles from his mountain fastness in Besançon to be at the reading, and gave a warm and witty introduction. It centered around a hitherto unnoticed split in Australian literature; between those writers raised on the North Coast of New South Wales, and those (such as Frank and myself) raised on the South Coast. This fresh look at a previously buried phenomenon — inherent cardinal antipathy — provided food for thought (and no doubt for a dozen theses.)
The mainly young audience enjoyed the evening, and my hand was tired from autographing copies of my work before it was over. Dinner later at Aux Charpientiers was a memorable event.
Alas, the bookshop will close its doors forever on 31 July 2012.
(This note from Charles Trueheart, The American Library in Paris blog):
In a letter to friends and patrons, founder and owner Odile Hellier cites the reasons – reasons which will surprise no one who follows trends in publishing and bookselling. On-line book retailers such as Amazon and the growing popularity of e-readers, among other market forces, are threatening independent bookstores all over the world.
What is more, when Village Voice opened its doors in 1982, the St. Germain quartier was funkier. Once known as the “triangle d’or de l’edition” and a cultural crossroads in Paris, Hellier laments, “the neighborhood has been overrun by fashionable boutiques and bars and lost its attractiveness to book browsers and buyers.”
The Village Voice is familiar to expatriates and visitors alike for its unique offerings of books tucked by the thousands into the tiny space’s nooks and crannies, and for the good judgment and personal attention of its booksellers. What is more, for three decades Odile Hellier’s bookshop has been a coveted rendezvous with readers for an incredibly distinguished roster of American and other English-speaking literary figures.
[…] Odile and her colleagues Michael, Vincent and Marc will be saying farewell at the Village Voice on the evening of Saturday 16 June, and everyone is invited to the wake: 6, rue Princesse, 75006 – Paris; Tel. 01 46 33 36 47; firstname.lastname@example.org