Home > Personal Posts > Saturday News – the conversation pie, Spring for Poets and Gibert Jeune

Saturday News – the conversation pie, Spring for Poets and Gibert Jeune

I don’t know how it is in your corner of the world but in mine, as we’re marking the anniversary of the first lockdown, theatres, cinemas, museums, bars, restaurants and shopping malls are still closed. Basically, the only remaining hobbies are cooking, reading, blogging, watching films at home, playing board games (try Pandemic, very timely and terribly realistic), running, biking and hiking. Yay. I’m still very very thankful for my unconditional love for books and my blogging activities.

Tarte conversation from Culture Crunch ©

Among the authorized activities is visiting local shops and indulging in food goodies. This is how I came across the conversation pie and its literary history. It was created in 1774 and named after the book Les conversations d’Emilie by Madame d’Epinay

She was Grimm’s lover and friend with Rousseau, Diderot and Voltaire. (Yes, imagine that.) Madame d’Epinay wrote this book of conversations with her granddaughter Emilie as a guidebook for the education of girls. She and Rousseau had long discussions about education in general and she thought something was missing regarding girls’ education.

Her book was such a success that this conversation pie was invented. The recipe is here (and in English) if you’re curious. I’ve bought one is a bakery and it’s good. Of course, after that, you need to exercise to burn all those calories but lucky you, running, biking and hiking are authorized activities. So, All is best in the best of all possible worlds., right?

Today is the first day of spring and we’re in the middle of the Printemps des Poètes or Spring for Poets. (13-29 March). It’s an event dedicated to poetry and this year’s theme is Desire. It reminded me that I ought to read more poetry. After diving into the biography of Berthe Morisot who was such good friends with Stéphane Mallarmé that he became her daughter’s guardian after she died, I thought I’d give his poetry a try.

Full of optimism, I downloaded a collection of his most famous poems. Phew!… Granted, I’m not a great reader of poetry but clearly, Mallarmé is out of my reach. Some of his poems like Le Guignon don’t make any sense to me. I know the words but I don’t know what to do with the way he puts them together. *sigh* So much for improving my reading of poetry.

Photo from Wikipedia

This week also came with sad news. Although the government took some measures to protect bookstores from the pandemic storm, the famous bookshop Gibert Jeune didn’t survive. Set in the Quartier Latin in Paris since 1886, Gibert Jeune closed down their four shops in Place St Michel. Lots of famous writers haunted the alleys of this book temple. 

Although I’m not from Paris, I have fond memories of going to Gibert Jeune to buy school books during the summer for the upcoming school year. This is where my mother got me my Gaffiot, the French-Latin dictionary we use in class and other books to prepare exams. It was the biggest bookstore I’d ever been into and I loved browsing through the shelves. I wonder what store will be in their place, I hope it’s not another luxury clothes, beauty or telephone store.

Apart from these random news, I’m starting a new job in a couple of weeks, I expect to be very busy in the upcoming months. I hope I’ll have enough time to keep up with billets and reading your reviews.

How is it going for you at the moment? 

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  1. March 21, 2021 at 12:11 am

    Still in lockdown here in England. My wife and I have even started doing jigsaw puzzles – very sad. Oh, and I made an apple and olive oil cake. Sorry to see that fine bookshop fail. Not many independents left here – replaced by the big chain stores.


    • March 21, 2021 at 9:18 am

      I have no patience for jigsaw puzzles but I can imagine that it helps pass the time.

      We still have a lot of independant bookstores but this one was really a landmark. Victim of the empyting of the Paris city centre (universities, police headquarters and a big court have relocated from the area to the suburbs), of various demonstrations (yellow vests, strikes against the retirement reform), of the destruction of Notre Dame (less tourists) and then Covid-19. And the rent increased.

      At the pace it’s going, Paris is going to be a museum for tourists and nothing more.


  2. March 21, 2021 at 2:24 am

    Gibert Jeune, how shocking, yet I remember walking by it – them – thinking “How many 2 euro books do you have to sell for this to work in this part of Paris?” But I fear you are right – they will be replaced by a Uniqlo and an Orange superstore and so on.

    Congratulations on the job!


    • March 21, 2021 at 9:22 am

      It’s prime location in Paris, I haven’t heard what the stores will become. It’s sad, this uniformisation of city centre through chain stores.
      They’re the only ones who can afford the rents on main shopping streets. (And in malls, the rents are crazy and the opening hours are such that the fixed costs in personnel are huge.)

      Thanks for the good wishes!


  3. March 21, 2021 at 3:32 am

    Congratulations on the new job… are you allowed out to go to work or if you will be working from home? Here, the pandemic has brought about a revolution in work. So many people enjoyed working from home and were (they say) more productive that they are continuing to do it even though lockdown is over. (For now, that is. Every time we let people into the country, they bring C_19 with them so we have snap lockdowns and border closures on and off all the time. It is what it is. )
    Working from home is also bringing about another change. Many people who have yearned to live in the countryside have discovered that they can live there and work from home. Our neighbours are doing this. They’ve bought a five-acre property about 80k from the CBD and are going to rent out the house next door to us so that they can come back to the city if it doesn’t work out.
    On another note, this week I had a lovely surprise from one of our booksellers. Last year during lockdown when almost everything was closed, I went out of my way to buy books from bricks-and-mortar bookshops. I alternated between my two favourites each month and spent the money I would normally have been spending on being out and about. It worked out at about five or six books each time (so you can imagine the effect on the TBR, eh?) Anyway, they sent me a lovely email along with a voucher for another book, to thank me for my loyalty. (And they are both still trading).
    Hang in there, Emma, the vaccine will be doing its job and before long, you will be able to venture out and do the things you love.


    • March 21, 2021 at 9:34 am

      Thanks for the good wishes.

      The government recommends 4 days a week of homeworking for all the people whose job allows it. That’s what I’ve been doing for a year, after a period of full homeworking. Thank God I have a home library where I set up my computer and I have a job that is compatible with homeworking.
      Here too, all these forced experiments of homeworking will change how people work. There seem to be a concensus about 2-3 days of homeworking and 2-1 days of being in the office. We need both, to meet colleagues, to glue teams together and also welcome and train newcomers.
      I’ve heard stories similar to your neighbour’s. People starting to think they can live farther if they only have to commute once or twice a week. Maybe rural communities will fare better, as long as the former city-dweller don’t expect the same services as in town.

      Great story about your two favourite bookstores! I did something similar but not as regular as you did. I bought books for gifts and luckily, independant bookstores in my region had already an internet site where you pick your bookstore, and click-and-collect. The tool was there, they had to advertise it. I don’t know how they’re doing but the crime fiction store in Lyon I went to seems to be struggling. My TBR is already huge, it wouldn’t be reasonable to add to it… I need to find more bookish friends to give books to! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. March 21, 2021 at 11:16 am

    Lovely post, Emma.
    What sad news about Gibert Jeune.
    And congratulations on your new job. I hope it will be everything you wish.


    • March 21, 2021 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks Caroline and yes, sad news about Gibert Jeune…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. March 21, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    I don’t feel the need to read more poetry, or to eat more pie. Though sitting around pie or any other food is great for conversation, as I’ve been demonstrating all afternoon today (Sunday) with as many of my family as we could gather together. Outside. Though Australia has no community-spread covid at the moment I still feel safer dining outside.
    I only by books from independents. If we have chains in Perth I’m not sure where they are.
    Good luck with your new job. In the Anglosphere you would have to work long hours to ‘prove’ yourself. I hope that is not the case in France and we keep hearing from you.


    • March 21, 2021 at 10:04 pm

      Reading other bloggers rave about poetry makes me feel like I’m missing out. Oh well, I suppose it goes in the same category as not liking red wine or beer.

      Bakeries or I should say pâtisseries (another French word with no perfect English translations) have tempting windows with lots of great cakes and pies. The conversation pie was too much of a temptation.

      Happy birthday! Glad you could celebrate outside and be with your family.

      In the French world of corporate executives, I’ll have to prove myself and hopefully I’ll do it during reasonable workdays.


      • March 22, 2021 at 6:20 am

        Thanks Emma, it was a good day. And pâtisseries have tempting windows in Australia too (but do yours have vanilla slices or apple turnovers with mock cream – my two favourites I’s sad to say).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. March 21, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    I’m not very good at all on poetry either, so I sympathise. Mallarmé is not for beginners! I hope you find something else that’s more up your street.
    For me, Gibert is mostly the second-hand section where I stocked up on CEE books on the rare occasions I went there. I don’t remember the staff as being pleasant or helpful (this was several years ago)! But I agree it’s a sad sign for central Paris.
    Wishing you all the best with your new job!


    • March 21, 2021 at 10:05 pm

      Glad I’m not the only one who struggles with Mallarmé. I prefer Paul Verlaine.

      Thanks for your good wishes.


  7. March 21, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    There are many poets whose work I love, but there’s an American poet John Ashbery, whose work I’m usually completely flummoxed by and from the little I’ve seen of Mallarmé I’d have the same problem.

    We’ve been quite locked down for a year, but people are getting restless.

    May the new job go smoothly and be wonderful!


    • March 21, 2021 at 10:06 pm

      I guess Mallarmé isn’t for me. I’d rather read Verlaine or Eluard.

      A year of complete lockdown with all the shops and schools closed? How does it work?

      Thanks for the good wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 22, 2021 at 2:35 am

        Sorry, I should have been more clear – it’s not a complete lockdown, food and drugstores are open but with limited capacity, and bookshops can open with limited capacity though many are just doing click and collect or only online orders. Seattle libraries are closed to browsing though some locations now have reserve and collect. Schools are complicated, but basically they moved to online teaching.


        • March 23, 2021 at 12:33 pm

          So, almost a complete lockdown. With the rate of the vaccination in the US, you’ll regain some freedom soon. Fingers crossed.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. March 21, 2021 at 7:08 pm

    We are much the same here. Everything is shut apart from what’s classed as essential, though schools are now open again. I haven’t been anywhere for a year and am vaguely stir crazy – even being back in work (I work at a school) hasn’t relieved the feeling. Hence I order stuff online and try to support the actual bookshops. Such a shame about Gibert Jeune – I hate to see shops like this closing down.

    But good luck with the job!!


    • March 21, 2021 at 10:10 pm

      Here lockdown is only in some areas, and especially Paris but schools remain open. (They were only closed during the first lockdown last spring.) And for this new lockdown, bookstores are classed as essential and remain open.

      I guess we’ve all tried to support independant bookstores as well as we could. They need to survive this crisis.

      Thanks for your good wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

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