Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A hint of Africa in the 6e arrondissement

Ascending from the Odéon metro yesterday and taking a leisurely stroll down the Rue des écoles in the ever-more-wintry Paris weather, I was pleased, given what it appears sometimes to be the French aversion to work, to find one of my favorite bookstores still open in the early afternoon.

L'Harmattan, an official outlet of the Editions Harmattan imprint, has perhaps the most impressive repository of books of Africa, Africana and Latin America-related subjects that I have yet found. Shelf after shelf of book in various languages on all aspects of political and economic history on Africa, written by both Africans and non-Africans, and a section on the Democratic Republic of Congo alone that goes on for a dozen shelves, more than many bookstores entire Africa sections. If the Haiti section veers a bit towards the obvious. a friend a mine, the Cuban-American translator Pedro Rodríguez, declared the store to have the best Cuba section that he had ever seen outside of Miami and it's hard to argue that point.

After some enjoyable browsing, I opted to purchase a copy of Côte d'Ivoire: L'année terrible 1999-2000, edited by Marc Le Pape and Claudine Vidal, which I have breezed halfway through and which thus far provides a very interesting and thorough examination of the Robert Guéï coup in that West African country and the rise of Laurent Gbagbo, Côte d'Ivoire’s current president. With bookstores under increasing pressure due to ever-climbing rents in cities in both North America and Europe, it is good to see a store such as L'Harmattan, despite their occasionally steep prices, still going strong, providing the resources for the deep study of a region that for too long has been ignored by the media at large.

Now, if only I could find that discount copy of the The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State that I’ve been looking for…

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